feasting at home: Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes


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