Piri Piri Chicken

 Piri piri chicken

Eating what the stars gave you

Even if we are not narcissists by any means, we always appreciate a good glance in a mirror every now and then.  These mirrors can cross our paths in the form of glass, another human, emotional, spiritual, even from fashion when you are staring at those shoes affirming that they are so you.  Probably that’s why at certain points of boredom we can spend a good amount of time goofing around with horoscopes.  It’s somehow assuring to recognize our own personality based on when we were born and also kind of liberating.  When convenient for us we could leave out any guilt and just say that we were born that way.

In spite of knowing that we are the only ones who may draw our own paths, let’s face it, it is kind of fun! That’s why I was so intrigued when I received my January’s Food & Wine with an article about recipes according to your zodiac sign.  Whatever that means, right? But when I realized my sign was the cover recipe, I just had to jump into that wagon and play along.  I’m a Scorpio and apparently we the Scorpio mob need spice and hotness in our lives.  I have never been a fan of chiles and spicy foods, so with a new year ahead I decided that if the stars were giving me a sign to try this new thing in my food repertoire this recipe was the chance.

My sign's recipe was this piri piri chicken.  Piri piri is a kind of hot pepper that grows mostly in the Africa region and is very hot, scaling at 50,000 to 175,000 SHU in the Scoville scale.  In the Mediterranean it is also known as a sauce, which is made with a blend of piri piris with other hot peppers.  I couldn’t find piri piris around, so I substituted with Thai red chili peppers, which are a bit hotter.  But let me tell you, at the end this chicken is not super hot, it’s more the smokiness of all the flavors combined which make it exceptionally delicious.  I could eat a couple of pieces without chocking or having to run for water.  The roasted potatoes are a nice complement to it.  I made this avo-yogurt dip with lots of mint to have something refreshing to balance everything.

Everything was so easy to prepare! And leftovers were the best, just throw them in a nice hot oven and they will turn crispy again, so I can say you can even make this meal in advance and reheat when ready to serve.  So, would you like to experiment with your foosdcope?!

Recipe notes:

1.     I didn’t find piri piri peppers, so I substituted them with Thai chili peppers, which happens to be a couple of spots higher than piri piri in the Scoville scale.

2.     The original recipe suggests for reserving some of the marinade to serve raw, but I preferred to use it completely on the chicken so it was well covered and moist.  I cooked the marinade through before serving, that way we also had more for dipping.

3.     I stuck to my method of steaming the potatoes before roasting them.  This allows the potatoes to loose some of the moisture and softens the fibers, creating a nice crust around them when roasted.

4.     You may reheat these foods in an oven heated to 425° for 10 minutes and they will be nice and crispy again.

 Piri piri chicken

Piri piri chicken with crispy potatoes (slightly adapted from the Food & Wine recipe)
Total time - 45 minutes plus 30 minutes to marinadeActive time - 10 minutes
Equipment - food processor, baking rack, 2 baking sheets, steamer if possible

Red long chili peppers or jalapeño peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped – 5
Thai chili peppers or dried piri piri chiles or chiles de arbol, stemmed and roughly chopped – 4
Crushed garlic – 3 Tsp
Fresh ginger – 2-inch piece, coarsely chopped
Cilantro leaves – ½ cup, plus more for garnish if desired
Distilled white vinegar – 2 TBSP
Shallot – 1 medium, chopped
Smoked paprika – 1 Tsp
Extra-virgin olive oil – ½ cup + 2 TBSP
Honey – 1 TBSP
Fine sea salt – 1 ½ Tsp, divided
Freshly ground black pepper – to taste
Skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks preferably) – 3 to 3 ½ lbs.
Baking potatoes – 1 big or 2 medium, washed and cut into ¼-inch-thick wedges
Lemon wedges for serving – optional

In the bowl of a food processor already attached to the base puree the chilis and chiles with the garlic, ginger, cilantro, vinegar, shallot, paprika, ½ cup of the olive oil, honey and ½ teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper until smooth, a pulse of about 10 seconds.  Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour the marinade over the chicken, rubbing the pieces a bit and making sure all pieces are well covered with the puree.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450° with one rack set in the second tier and another in the lower third.  Set a baking wire rack over a large rimmed baking sheet.

Place the potatoes in a double boiler, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and steam them in medium high for about 5 to 7 minutes, until they start to look a bit transparent and the edges are tender. Retire from heat and shake the pot with the potatoes to drip any excess water and to scrape the borders.  Transfer to a bowl and drizzle the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the last ¼ teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper if desired and gently combine everything.  It’s ok if parts of the flesh of the potato wedges break a little bit.  Arrange in a second baking sheet brushed with some olive oil and set aside.

Transfer the chicken to the wire rack on the baking sheet.  Do not discard the marinade.  Sprinkle the pieces with ¼ teaspoon of the salt, then turn over the pieces and sprinkle with another ¼ teaspoon of the salt.  Roast the chicken in the upper rack for 20 minutes, then add the potatoes to the lower rack and roast along with the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the chicken is nice and charred and the potatoes are golden brown.  If the potatoes are still a bit pale and soft, take out the chicken and leave the potatoes 5 minutes more.

While the chicken is roasting cook the marinade in a small saucepan on medium low heat for 10 minutes. Retire from heat and let stand until ready for serving.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and garnish with the cilantro or mint leaves from the avo yogurt dip and lemon wedges.  Serve with the potatoes and yogurt avocado sauce and marinade for dipping.

Yogurt avocado mint sauce
Total time - 5 minutes
You may cut this recipe in half

Plain regular Greek yogurt – 4 oz
Avocado, mashed – 1 large or 2 small
Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 1 TBSP
Fresh mint leaves, chopped – 2 TBSP
Cilantro leaves, chopped – 1 TBSP
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp
Freshly ground black pepper, if desire – pinch

Mix all the ingredients well.  Add more salt and pepper if desired.  Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Piri piri chicken with crispy potatoes