It may not come as a surprise that chicken isn’t my favourite meat. Sure, I love it when it’s breaded and deep fried or when I see a whole roasted chicken, but on a typical night I’m not consuming chicken. And I pretty much NEVER order it when I go out. It’s not that I don’t like chicken but it always seems like the boring and safe choice. And don’t even get me started on this country’s predisposition for consuming dry, flavourless boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If I do eat chicken it’s usually the dark meat, it has so much more flavour and is always juicy. People stay sleeping on the dark meat… oh well, more for me.
Growing up our takeout choices usually consisted of the usual suspects: pizza, chinese, McDonalds and KFC. But one of the more interesting options (and one of the joys of growing up in a partially Portuguese neighbourhood) was Churrasco of St. Clair known for the Portuguese grilled piri piri chicken. The chicken is usually spit roasted or spatchcocked (my fave word) and grilled until pretty charred. The chicken has been marinated in a spicy marinade made with piri piri peppers (not always necessarily piri piri peppers) and then you get this spicy dipping sauce to go with it. If you’re lucky the place also serves roasted Parisian potatoes and Portugese rice with green peas. Most Canadian kids love eating Swiss Chalet but I could never stand that stuff and would always opt for Churrasco instead.
Since moving away from the old hood I don’t eat churrasco nearly as much as I’d like to. My current hood (in Toronto) has Churrasco Villa which is good but I much prefer the sauce at Churrasco of St. Clair. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I had the BRILLIANT idea of making churrasco/piri piri chicken at home. Why it took me so long I’ll never know.
After a pretty thorough search on the interwebs I settled on this recipe from Epicurious. I marinated the chicken overnight in flavourful mix of cilantro, garlic, ginger, piri piri sauce, lemon juice, oil and garlic. It was at this point that I knew that this chicken would be amazing since I pretty much wanted to drink and dip stuff in the marinade. From there the recipe says to grill the chicken but since I don’t have a grill I chose to broil the chicken to get some of that crusty goodness action going.
As anticipated the chicken turned out wonderfully. The acid in the marinade helps to soften the chicken which I also think allows the flavour to penetrate even further meaning that every bite is awesome. I served the chicken with this yellow rice that I like and some kale. This chicken has easily become a staple in my house and next I want to try using it in other applications like to top a salad.
Piri Piri Chicken
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons piri-piri sauce or other hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, peeled, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup piri-piri sauce or other hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, backbone removed, opened flat
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cilantro and garlic; cook until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add piri-piri sauce and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 2 minutes.
Finely chop cilantro, ginger, shallot, and garlic in processor. Add piri-piri sauce, 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice, coarse salt, and pepper; process marinade to blend.
Place chicken, skin side up, on work surface. Using palm of hand, press on breastbone to flatten chicken. Tuck wing tips under. Pour half of marinade into 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Open chicken like book; place skin side down in single layer in dish. Pour remaining marinade over. Cover; chill at least 4 hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally.
Preheat oven to 450F. Cover baking pan with aluminum foil. Remove chicken from marinade. Arrange skin side up and cook for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and pour warm glaze over.
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