Piri-Piri Chicken

Piri-Piri ChickenHot Chicken
Now that the weather has turned nice, I have been doing a lot of grilling. I mean I don’t think I have turned my oven on in at least two weeks. Well, at least not for dinner…

I have grilled ribs and burgers. I grilled some salmon a couple of different ways. And, of course, a whole lotta chicken. Chicken is the easy choice when your question to those who live under your roof about what sounds good for dinner gets no response. Just the sound of crickets. This happens nine times out of ten (which means we have what I want for dinner nine times out of ten). And, if they don’t like it, too bad. Ya should have spoken up when you had the chance!

I will say that their non-response gives me leeway to experiment a little. This can be a good thing when I am feeling like I am in a cuisine rut. It is how I found my latest obsession, Piri-Piri Chicken.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Piri-Piri Chicken hails from North Africa and is actually the invention of the Portuguese settlers who lived there. The piri-piri sauce is basically a hot sauce made from African Bird’s Eye Chiles. And it’s spicy y’all. You can buy it at specialty markets or online where there are a number of possibilities to choose from. You can also make your own but the challenge is finding the chiles. Bird’s eye chilies are hard to find fresh in the US. You can substitute other red chilies like Thai chiles, Fresno, New Mexico, or pequin—and they can also be difficult to find in markets. I’ve been asking our produce buyer to bring in Fresno chilies forever and he does, whenever he can find them, but it is sporadic at best. Now that we are heading into warmer weather we should see more in the markets so cross your fingers.

When I made my Piri-Piri Chicken, I made my own sauce but had to substitute with serrano chilies (since that was all I could find). While it tasted really good, it didn’t have that punch of heat I was looking for so I am going to try again. but this time I am going to do it with the Nando’s Peri Peri sauce that we carry in front of our meat counter.

Fair warning, you have to let the chicken marinate for a while so this is probably best done on a weekend. And, since the weather is going to stay beautiful, I would say you have your Saturday evening meal planned…

Piri-Piri Chicken 
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 4 servings

For the glaze

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons piri-piri sauce or other hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, peeled, quartered
6 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
1 11-3/4″ x 8-1/2″ x 1-1/4″ disposable aluminum baking pan (to catch the drips on the grill)

Make the glaze
This glaze can be prepared up to one day in advance and refrigerated. Warm the glaze before using.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cilantro and garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown (about 2 minutes). Add the piri-piri sauce and lemon juice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 2 minutes.

Make the marinade
Finely chop the cilantro, ginger, shallot, and garlic in a food processor. Add the piri piri sauce, 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice, coarse salt, and pepper; process marinade to blend.

Marinate the chicken
This needs to be done in advance and best done the day before so the chicken can marinate overnight.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on a work surface. Using the palm of your hand, press on the breastbone to flatten the chicken. Tuck the wing tips under.

Pour half of the marinade into an 11″ x 7″ x 2″ glass baking dish. Open the chicken flat and place it skin-side-down in a single layer in the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken an cover it with foil or plastic wrap. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally.

Prepare the grill
Remove the top rack from the barbecue and prepare the barbecue to medium heat. (If using a 2-burner gas grill, light 1 burner. If using a 3-burner gas grill, leave the center burner unlit. If using a charcoal grill, light the briquettes in chimney and pour them onto 1 side of the lower grill rack.) Place a disposable aluminum pan on unlit part of the grill. Place the upper grill rack on the barbecue and brush it with oil.

BBQ the chicken
Remove the chicken from the marinade. Arrange it skin-side-up on the grill rack above the drip pan. Cover the barbecue and grill the chicken turning often. Grill the chicken until the skin is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F (about 40 minutes). Transfer the chicken onto a platter. Pour the warmed glaze over the chicken and serve.

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