The hottest rotisserie chicken on Long Island has a decided Latin spin. Golden brown and savory to the bone, these spit-roasted birds are a source of patriotic pride to those with roots in South America.
"Rotisserie chicken is a huge deal in Peru and Colombia," said TV personality and cookbook author Daisy Martinez in a telephone interview. "There's this rivalry between Colombian and Peruvian roast chicken, and those recipes are matters of national security."
How lucky for Long Islanders, then, that many South American restaurateurs have settled in these parts, bringing with them their secret marinades.
It's no secret, though, that before going onto the rotisserie, Latin chickens soak a while in savory baths. "We marinate our chickens for three days before putting them in the oven," said Frank Toro, the Colombian-born chef-owner of Pollos el Paisa, a Westbury restaurant whose name means "national chicken." Toro says his marinade has about 20 ingredients, but he divulges the presence of only garlic and "lots of fresh herbs."
Martinez points to an Asian influence in Peruvian marinades, many of which may be made with soy sauce, ginger and lots of garlic. "An ingredient that somebody whispered into my ear was a black malt beer that's alcohol-less. It's dark and rich and very molasses-y tasting."
At Mochika, a Peruvian restaurant in Glen Cove, beer as well as a small amount of soy sauce go into the marinade, according to owner Edgar Portocarrero. As for the other ingredients, that secret belongs to chef Irine Carmona.
In addition to the mystique of Latin chicken, there's its practical appeal. As David Bustamente, co-owner of Gallo, a Colombian restaurant in Patchogue, sees it, roasted poultry makes for relatively healthy eating. "It's also not as expensive as other meals; you could feed a family of four, easily." Many Latin restaurants offer deals that include a whole chicken plus an array of side dishes and sometimes even a beverage for less than $25.