Frango de Churrasco ❦ Authentic Portuguese Piri-Piri Chicken
Updated: 3 days ago
Summer is finally here! As I sit at my desk, I can't help but feel a bit nostalgic about this recipe. Very unfairly the cuisine of Portugal doesn't get the recognition it deserves. If it weren't for the Portuguese bringing back spices and delights from the New World, where would some of the world's greatest cuisines be today? The "malegeta", Portuguese for the fiery African Bird's eye chilli, is a great example. Many Portuguese ex-colonies share a love of chillies. Mozambique, Angola, Goa, Timor, Cape Verde to name a few. After moving to the UK, I was constantly hearing about a certain fast food chain that sold Portuguese Piri-piri chicken. I was, frankly, quite saddened that we had now been associated with this very inferior chicken! It seemed everyone thought that's all we had to offer!
It is nothing even remotely close to the piri-piri chicken in Portugal, or in any Portuguese house the world over for that matter.
Growing up my mother would marinate the chicken the day before. My father, upon returning from work, would get the charcoal grill going in our backyard. As soon as the coals turned grey, he would place the spatchcocked chicken on the grill. The smell was unmistakable. The Portuguese are truly the experts when it comes to grilled chicken, bearing in mind that each cook has their own version of this sauce, just slightly modified, from the mother recipe.
My sister and I didn't care for the spicy version. My mother would often substitute sweet, red chargrilled peppers, for the Bird's eye chillies. She would then make a separate batch of the fiery stuff to baste my father's portion of chicken. I now love piri-pri sauce and, like me, Portuguese people seem to put this sauce on everything! From other grilled meats and fish, to adding a few drops to soups. Who can blame them, this stuff is delicious.
Here I've included recipes for two sauces. The first is the classic piri-piri, the second is a lemony, garlic and herb butter. You can make one or both. I often marinate my chicken and baste it while cooking with the piri-piri sauce, then brush on the garlic butter after it's all done. The chicken is marinated in a seperate marinade from 2 hours to overnight. Make sure you reserve a little of the sauces to brush on the chicken. I think it goes without saying that you must keep the sauce your using to baste the chicken with, seperate from the one you'll baste the fully cooked chicken with later. After making the sauces, just put a bit into seperate bowls and reserve. A little clarification on the spatchcocking of the chicken. In Portugal, the chicken is flattened by splitting up the breast side, leaving the backbone. I actually prefer to remove the backbone entirely and flatten my chicken with the two breast halves intack. I have included some pictures of that below. The way you do it is down to personal choice and in no way affects the outcome or taste of your chicken. I just think it looks prettier. Since no one in our house eats the back, I save to make stock.
Win-win ;) Enjoy XOXO
Piri-piri Chicken - Frango de Churrasco
For the Chicken and Marinade:
1 Chicken spatchcocked
(no more than 1,300 kg./ 3 lbs.)
4 Garlic cloves minced
60 ml. Extra virgin olive oil
1 Juice of a lemon
6 Bay leaves, torn in half
1 tbsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)
125ml. Dry white wine or beer (pale lager, pilsner)
1-1/2 tbsp. Sea salt/rock salt
( If using regular table salt, reduce to 1-tbsp.)
1. Place chicken on cutting board and with a knife, cut various slits into the flesh right down to the bone
(see picture below)
This will help the marinade sink into the meat and also allow the chicken to cook evenly, as pieces like the wing joint and leg/thigh take longer to cook.
2. Place chicken in a large shallow container with remaining ingredients, massaging it all over the chicken evenly. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours and up to overnight (8-hours).
3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and leave at room temperature 30 mins. before grilling. Pre-heat your grill. Charcoal is best, but gas is fine too.
4. As soon as your grill is ready, place chicken skin side up. Baste with sauce as it cooks, turning often until cooked through. Finish skin side down for an extra crispy exterior.
5. Once cooked, cut chicken using poultry sheers and arrange on platter. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsly or corriander. I love it with a squeeze of lemon. Serve alongside reserved, piri-piri sauce or garlic-lemon butter.
Popular accompaniments include a salad or french fries.
The sauces are delicious on grilled corn too.
Chicken with garlic butter sauce
The secret ingeredient in my sauce is whiskey
Piri-piri Sauce - Molho Piri-piri
8-10 Fresh Bird's eye chillies
4 Garlic cloves
1 Juice and zest of 1/2 a large lemon
1 tbsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)
1 tsp. Red wine vinegar
50 ml. Whiskey or Portuguese Port wine
150-200 ml. (approximately) Extra virgin olive oil
Depends on how thick or thin you prefer your sauce, I like mine on the thinner side.
1 tsp. Oregano (optional)
1. Place all ingredients, except olive oil, in blender or food processor with blade attachment.
2. Pour in olive oil, just until all ingredients are covered.
3. Pulse until everything is incorporated. Add more oil a little at a time if sauce is too thick.
4. Use immediately or place in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Garlic Butter Sauce - Molho Manteiga Limão
1 Large lemon (zest and juice)
8 Garlic cloves (squashed)
1 tsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)
1 tsp. Oregano (dried)
1 tbsp. Parsley chopped
25 ml. Whiskey or Port wine
125 g. Salted Butter
1. Crush garlic to release oil using back of knife. Just place knife blade on garlic clove and press down to squash.
2. In a small sauce pan on low heat, combine all ingredients
3. Once butter has melted, let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavours to meld and alcohol to evaporate.
4. After 10 mins. remove from heat, let cool and use to baste on chicken or as a sauce once chicken is fully cooked.
5. If sauce solidifies or separates, simply reheat gently and stir to incorporate. Use within 24 hours.