During a visit to Portugal over a decade ago, I had the chance to sample one of the most delightfully hot and spicy dishes I’d yet had, Piri Piri Chicken.
We were on a day trip out of Lisbon, in the picturesque little coastal town of Sintra,
where we had just toured a palace, and lunch time was approaching. We drove down to the harbor area and found this non-descript little place that friends told us was famous for their chicken. We ordered a couple and a few beers to wash said chicken down, and waited for the chicken to arrive.
While we were waiting, I snapped a pic of the cooks preparing the chickens on skewers over a wood fire.
I don’t have to tell you the place smelled wonderful!
When the chicken arrived it was wonderful as well. It was an entire half chicken, marinated in the spicy piri piri sauce and grilled to perfection. But, man was it spicy—we’re talking fire-in-the-hole hot! But it was a tasty heat.
I’d always remembered this meal fondly, but never got around to trying to make it until about a year ago. I think the main reason was the lack of authentic ingredients available. I found some sauces claiming to be piri-piri (or peri-peri) online, but when I tried them, I was disappointed—didn’t taste anything like the stuff in Portugal. So, I decided to make my own. The recipe that follows was tweaked over time, and it is close to what I had in Portugal, but not exact. It is by no means authentic, as I freely bastardized various recipes I found until I got the taste I wanted, and also I lacked the main authentic ingredient—the piri piri, or bird’s eye chile pepper from Africa. I subbed some Fresno Reds instead, and it worked out fine.
There do seem to be literally hundreds of premade piri piri sauces available, so I may keep trying them until I find one I like. If I do, I’ll update this recipe. I’d like to have that authentic bird’s eye pepper in the recipe in some form, so hopefully I’ll find a good one. In the mean time, this version is not too shabby:
Piri Piri Chicken
For the Marinade
1 Jar Roasted Red Peppers
1/2 Red Onion, Peeled and Quartered
3 Cloves Garlic
4-5 Fresno Red Peppers or Similar
1-2 Habanero Peppers
2 Tablespoons Louisiana-Style Hot Sauce
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Juice of One Lemon
1/4 to 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
2-4 Bone-in Skin-on Chicken Breasts, or pieces of your choice.
For the Glaze
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Chopped Fine
1 Garlic Clove, Minced
1/2 Cup of Unused Reserved Piri Piri Marinade
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
As I said earlier, this is a pretty bastardized version of what an authentic recipe might be—I’m just trying to get to the same flavor I tasted in Portugal, and taking another road to do so.
Anyhoo, open your jar of roasted red peppers and coarsely chop them.
Toss ‘em into your food processor. Quarter your half red onion;
toss this in as well. Coarsely chop your Fresno Reds and Habaneros
and toss these in, along with the hot sauce, smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce and the juice of the lemon.
Process for a few seconds to get everything chopped up nice, then begin to add your olive oil. Process until a chunky yet very liquid-y mixture forms.
This should make about a little over two cups of marinade.
Can be made up to a day ahead or more. Will keep for several days.
For the chicken, I'm using just two bone in skin on breasts
since it's just the wife and I dining tonight, but the above marinade recipe makes enough for 8-10 chicken pieces, or two (or more) chicken halves. Place your chicken in a large Ziploc bag and add a cup of the marinade. Shake well to make sure the chicken is well-coated.
Let the pieces marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours.
You can use the roasted red pepper jar to store unused marinade, some of which you'll use later to make the glaze.
When you’re ready to cook, fire up your charcoal grill for indirect cooking. Add a piece of smoking wood to the coals for some authentic flavor and aroma. Allow the grill to settle in at 325˚F, place the chicken on the opposite side from the charcoal...
grill for 30-45 minutes, placing the until the chicken is ruby-red in color and cooked through.
While the chicken is cooking, make your glaze. Melt butter in a small saucier or sauce pan. Add the other glaze ingredients and heat through.
When the chicken is done, bring it in off the grill and immediately brush with the glaze.
Allow to sit for a few minutes for the glaze to set up. Then serve.
Here we served it simply with some sun dried tomato cous-cous.
You can also serve a little of the glaze on the side as a dipping sauce.
Until Next Time,
The Heat is on!