Piri Piri Chicken
Living in Toronto introduced me to so many different cuisines. I only grew up 45 minutes west of the city and had plenty of great food there too but just not the options and the selection that the big city had and has. I was introduced to Portuguese style Piri Piri chicken by a friend who married a Portuguese guy, and my roommate worked for a Brazilian and often held events at restaurants serving up some of the yummiest Piri Piri in the west. The love affair began. Then I went to Portugal for a port wine tour (next level - I look back and can’t even believe that happened) and experienced it to a whole other level. I also worked with a Portuguese girl and her shower and wedding was very Piri Piri-ful! I also worked in the west and we often had our staff meetings catered by some of those same yummy restaurants serving up Piri Piri chicken. So when I all of a sudden moved and was torn away from it (insert dramatic effect) no pre-mixed store bought powder or sauce would do.
When I saw Deborah’s (rainydaybites) book selection for last month and her picks for our recipe challenges I knew I had to get the book and had to make the recipes for the challenges - one being this chicken. That book is Bringing it home by Gail Simmons. I read the sample of the book online and knew I had to have it. This woman has experienced so many food adventures and has been with Top Chef for years. She is incredible and has used all she has learned whether its flavours techniques and all on these food adventures to make delicious meals approachable and delicious - bringing it home as it were! Definitely a book to have in your arsenal. I’m thankful for it. I am only sharing the two recipes that we did on the challenges a)because they were so darn good and b) I used some substitutions that I like to include for all of us living away from places where you can just pop into any old grocery store and pick up any dried chilies you want. You will have to buy the book for the rest.
Let’s talk about chicken shall we. I literally hate touching raw chicken. Not just chicken but all meat. Chicken is at the top of my list though. I eat it with no problems but touching and washing - I hate it but I do it anyways. It’s not just the touching meat although that is part of it. It’s my phobia of germs. I’m not as bad as Howie Mandel, but when it comes to poultry I’m a bit of a freak. My skin crawls with every splash that chicken makes when I clean it and I memorize anything it’s touched or was In contact with it and must disinfect everything in its vicinity. Now you know the love hate relationship I have with chicken. Anyways, this was my first time spatchcocking a chicken and as much as I hated touching it up this much, I recommend it highly. Not only does it cook faster but it’s a lot easier to cut later when it’s cooked as well. Hope the pictures help with the process of it!
Finding the chilies was a bit of a challenge but I just did a little research on substitutions and used what was available. I found New Mexico dried chilies and they were quite affordable surprisingly for here. Ironically this week I went into the same store to see if I can get some saffron threads and saw they had brought in some anchos. Figures! I also used some locally grown tiny bird peppers for some extra flavour and used a jalapeño to substitute for a Serrano. All worked very well and the flavour outcome was incredible. The paste created with the chilies and the rest of the seasoning ingredients really seeps into the bird and makes it so flavourful. The peppers are not overly hot at all. They just add a very subtle heat but tremendous smokiness. If you want more heat don’t remove the seeds from the fresh chilies.
I just can’t talk this recipe up enough. You just need to try it! Hope the substitutions help. My recipe below is what I used in substitution for the original recipe in brackets. So please use whichever you find more conveniently. You won’t regret making this recipe. The potatoes are flavoured from the juices from the chicken and are perfectly cooked. The lemons give it just the right amount of zing and acidity. Just an awesome recipe which is great for family dinner or for entertaining. Hope you try it and enjoy it!!
- 3 New Mexico dried chilies stems and seeds removed and chilies torn into pieces (substitute ancho chilies or California chilies)
- a 4 to 4½lb whole chicken
- 3 lemons
- 5 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- ⅓cup of fresh grated ginger
- 3-4 tiny bird peppers stems and seeds removed and chopped (optional)
- 1 jalapeño pepper stem and seeds removed and chopped (substitute the bird and jalapeño peppers with 1-2 Serrano chilies)
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro or chadon beni
- 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1¼lbs of washed baby potatoes or smaller sized ones if possible - larger ones can be cut in half
- Salt and pepper
Bring a small pot of approx two cups of water to boil and then add the chopped dried chilies to it and remove from heat. Let it stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile spatchcock your chicken. Clean your chicken and cut away excess fat from around the cavity then pat dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board backbone side up. Using sharp kitchen shears/scissors cut all the way down the length of the bone on both sides to remove it. Flip the chicken so it’s breast side up and use your palms to press firmly between the breast to crack the breast bone and allow you to flatten the chicken. (This totally reminded me of CPR – yikes and totally why sometimes I just want to be vegan) Use your fingers to loosen the skin of the chicken along the breast and thighs working from the edges of the cavity.
Grate the lemon zest from one lemon and squeeze it for juice along with the second one so you have approximately ¼ cup in total of lemon juice plus the zest of one. Cut the third and last lemon into thin slices and remove the seeds from them.
In a food processor or blender combine the New Mexico chilies and two tablespoons of their soaking liquid, the lemon zest and juice, garlic, ginger, bird peppers if using and jalapeño, onion, paprika, coriander, 1 tbsp of cilantro, and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Process until all combined and then while processing drizzle in two tbsp of the olive oil to form a thin paste.
Separate three tablespoons of the paste and and gently push the paste under the skin of the chicken, then run your hands over the outside of the skin to squeeze it and distribute it into every nook and cranny of that chicken
Put the chicken in a resealable bag and pour the remainder of the paste into the bag over the chicken. Seal the bag making sure to press all the air out of it. Wash your hands. Then rub the outside of the bag to work the paste all over the chicken. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for one hour if baking it the same day. If not marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Allow the chicken to come to room temp before roasting though.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Put a 9X13 roasting pan in the oven while it preheats and heat pan for 10minutes.
Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with the rest of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken out of bag onto a plate and reserve the paste from the bag. Spread half the paste over the top of the chicken and sprinkle salt and pepper over it too.
Remove hot pan from the oven and toss the potatoes and any oil from the bowl into it. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes, breast side down and spread the remaining paste.
Place back into the oven and roast 15 minutes and then remove and flip the chicken over breast side up and roast for another 10 minutes and baste the potatoes and chicken with pan juices that have already formed. Tuck the lemon slices between the potatoes and chicken and under and around the chicken as well.
Return to oven and continue roasting until done and deeply roasted skin. Took approx 30 more minutes of roasting for me but it depends on the size of the chicken. Use a thermometer to ensure doneness and it should read 165 degrees and juices should run clear when thigh of chicken is pierced.
Let chicken rest for ten minutes before cutting. And serve with potatoes and lemon slices and pan juices and some chopped cilantro.