November 6, 2013

Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes

There is nothing quite as satisfying as a simple roasted chicken, just pulled from the oven, aromas wafting through house, infusing hearth and home with warmth and comfort. Winter has arrived, dropping snow on the recently fallen leaves. It seemed to happen so quickly this year, the changing of the seasons. My initial reaction, truthfully, is resistance, to the abrupt ending of fall and the beginning of the long winter to come. And yet, I'm lured into acceptance by little things - the sound of the crackling fire, the snowflakes, the stack of books waiting to be read, new wool socks and comforting meals.

This Portuguese Roast Chicken is one of those dishes that makes winter a little more bearable. It warms the soul with its deep smokey flavors. I first discovered it the beautiful pages of the new Donna Hay Magazine, but the recipe, to my palate, needed more oomph-  so I added a bit here. The prep time is short and the oven does much of the work. During the cold months, I try to utilize the oven as much as possible. It warms the whole house and just feels good.

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Smoked paprika, dried ancho chilies and fresh garlic are at the base of this flavorful marinade. This is kind of a "manly" dish -in that, in general, men tend to gravitate towards these deep, smokey flavors. It looks spicy, but don't be deceived- this version is not over-the-top spicy, and I'd only call it a "one-star" on the spiciness scale -it really lets the other flavors come through.

Traditional Portuguese Chicken, also called Piri Piri Chicken (or sometimes Peri Peri Chicken), is made with Piri Piri peppers which actually originated in South Africa, and were imported to Portugal from two Portuguese colonies, Angola and Mozambique, on spice ships. Today, the peppers are used widespread throughout Portugal to make marinades, basting liquids, condiments and hot sauces.

Unfortunately piri-piri peppers aren't available here, or if they are, I haven't found them, so for this recipe, I substituted less spicy Ancho Chilies. This is a one star dish, as far as spiciness. So if you like heat, you may want to add more. The Ancho Chilies also add a nice depth to the marinade.  I haven't tried it yet, but  my guess is that if this marinade were rubbed lavishly on tofu and baked in the oven, it would be just as good as the chicken. So vegetarians, try it on tofu and let me know. And you may want to skip the next few pictures.

You can butterfly a whole chicken for this recipe, or roast it whole, or buy pre-cut bone-in, skin on pieces. Butterflying allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly, and is a good technique to learn. 

To butterfly, start by placing the chicken (rinsed, patted dry,)  breast side down on a cutting board.

Using sharp kitchen scissors, remove the spine, cutting on one side and then the other side of the spine. Open the chicken wide and turn over, so breast side is now facing up.

With the back side open and facing down, press down firmly on the breast bone of the chicken to flatten. You may hear some cracking.

In a blender or food processor, blend the marinade ingredients into a thick paste.  Brush the marinade all over both sides of the chicken, saving the rest for basting while in the oven.

If making the potatoes that go with this, brush marinade on the bottom of your baking pan. Sweet potatoes or yams would also go nicely.

Layer thinly sliced potatoes, only one to two slices deep, and sprinkle generously with salt.

Place the chicken, skin side down, tucking the wings under, over top of the potatoes and place in a 425F pre-heated  oven.
After 20 minutes, turn the chicken over and roast for another 20-30 minutes, basting with more marinade 15 minutes after flipping.

The flavorful juices from the chicken and marinade will seep into the potatoes which will have softened and also become crispy, a nice contrast.

Once the chicken is cooked through, let rest for 5 minutes. 

 Serve this with a cooling cilantro yogurt -sauce but this is not imperative if pressed for time.

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Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes
Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes, also know as Piri Piri Chicken

1 Whole Chicken ( 3-4 lbs)
1 ½ lbs potatoes ( yukon or reds), thinly sliced

2 Dried Ancho Chilies-re hydrated
2 T smoked paprika
6 cloves garlic
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp coriander
1/4 C plus 1 T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 C plus 1 T Olive Oil
1/2 tsp pepper

Cilantro Sauce:
1 C plain yogurt
1 bunch Cilantro- finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher Salt
½ tsp coriander
Cracked pepper
1 T lemon juice

1 T olive oil
Preheat oven to 425F
Rehydrate dried chile's in small pot of boiling water on the stove for 20 minutes.
Butterfly chicken: Rinse inside and out, removing innards. Pat dry. Place on a cutting board, breast down. Using sharp kitchen scissors, cut along both sides of the spine, remove and discard. Turn the chicken over, and placing your hand on the breast bone, press down hard with the palm of your hand, to flatten. 
Make the marinade by blending the marinate ingredients into a paste with a blender or food processor. Brush a layer of marinade on the bottom of your baking pan. Place the thinly sliced potatoes on top of the marinade and sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt. Brush all sides and crevasses of the chicken with the marinade, coating fairly heavily. ( You will add more marinade during cooking, so be sure to save the remaining.) Place chicken, skin side down on the potatoes and place in the oven. Turn chicken over after 15 minutes, and place back in the oven. After 10-15 minutes, brush more marinade all over the chicken on the skin side, really lathering it up. Return to the oven and bake until cooked through another 15-20 minutes, or until leg/ thigh reaches internal temperature of 180 F.  To crisp the skin and get it deeply brown, broil for a few minutes. Remove chicken when done and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.
While chicken is roasting, combine Cilantro Sauce ingredients together, either in a bowl- mixing by hand, or in a food processor. 
Details Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3-4


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Gorgeous! I make something so similar to this, except using lemon and thyme instead of sherry vinegar and coriander. Probably not very authentic, I know. Either way, this looks delicious and beautifully photographed.

  3. I cooked the Donna Hay version last week, which was delicious, but agree with your comment that it needed more oomph. I compared both recipes and would be Interested to know why you decided not to include the lemon juice? I googled other peri peri chicken recipes, and this appears to be a common ingredient. Also, where can you buy dried ancho chillies and what other chilli would you recommend if you can't buy these in your local supermarket?

    1. Thanks for your feedback…I appreciate it! Dried ancho chilies are fairly common and readily available at most super markets. As for lemon juice compared to sherry vinegar -I think they would work interchangeably here, and I agree, lemon is probably more authentic. But the Sherry vinegar seemed to punch it up even more, and I preferred the flavor overall…but it's not imperative. :)

  4. Stunning photos! The chicken looks amazing, and I just love a one dish recipe! I'm positive my family would love this. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I'm roasting a simple salt/pepper/garlic chicken right now, and it's nowhere near as pretty as this one! I'm definitely going to have to try this out. love the liberal use of chiles.

  6. Hello.
    I'm portuguese and I love you talk about us ;-)
    Great recipe

  7. This WILL be on my table tomorrow night. Stunning photos and mouth watering recipe. Just found your site through food gawker and will be a follower. =)

    1. Awesome Lisa…please let us know how it turned out!

  8. The real portuguese chicken piri piri is grilled on chalk served with chips and tomato and lettuce salad. But that one seems very nice either!

  9. This looks soooooo good. Gonna try it with some wings next week.

  10. I have this in the looks and smells amazing...will let you know the taste...I did not have red wine vinegar...used organic apple cider...never know

  11. I just made this tonight. It was delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  12. I made this last night, I used Guajalliaro chiles because they are not spicy and had them at home. And I did not have to deal with a surgery on the chicken since I had only chicken thighs :) It was delicious. I tend to just put potatoes and chicken together to bake with minimal herbs but this was worth to spend the time. Thank you!

  13. I made this over the weekend, and while the flavor was good, the skin remained rubbery and the marinade never changed color - especially after slathering it on toward the end of the cook time. Once the chicken rested and I cut into it, the skin slid off and all we had was mildly flavored meat. I am wondering if starting out at a higher temperature to crisp/brown the skin, then lowering the temperature to cook the chicken would result in the beautiful skin shown in the recipe. Does anyone have any advice or thoughts?

    1. Hummmm…that is perplexing. Sorry about that. All I can think of is …not all ovens cook the same. I have a gas oven, and always preheat it for a good 30 minutes. Perhaps you could try what you suggested, or if you have a broil option….crisping it up at the end with your broiler, so you have a little more control. I will adjust the recipe…thanks for the feedback.

  14. Thank you Sylvia. This is an amazing recipe. I plan to make it again this weekend for guests.
    Question. What do you think brining the chicken in a salt water prior would do? I am concerned that it might it make it too salty? Have you ever done this with this particular recipe?

    1. I really like brining chicken when I have the time, but have not brined it for this recipe- my guess is it would be great!

  15. Hi Sylvia,

    Instead of using a whole chicken, can I substitute it with chicken thighs or drumsticks? If so, would the cook time still be the same? Also, my family doesn't like cilantro. What herb can I use to replace the cilantro?


    1. Thighs and legs are great (skin in, bone in). Either leave sauce off completely, serve on the side or sub fresh basil, parsley or mint.

  16. Thanks for this recipe, this is my first time cooking a whole chicken and I was amazed from the result!

  17. Wow - this is amazing - thanks for sharing it - I am definitely going to give it a go the next time I roast a chicken which will probably be Sunday!! Can't wait!!