If there’s one gluten-free dish to sample while in Portugal, it’s peri peri chicken.
In general, the country is a lot more friendly to the dietarily challenged than their neighbors over in Spain, who seem to sneak jamon or bread into unsuspecting dishes like romesco sauce and gazpacho. For most of my trip, I got by with simple grilled seafood, homemade potato chips, and tomato rice.
But at the top of my culinary to-do list was the Portuguese version of BBQ chicken made with spicy red piri piri peppers brought over from Africa. In the States, barbeque is a hot bed for gluttonous offenders like Worcestershire, soy sauce and sketchy thickeners. So the idea of a national grill culture that centered around fresh ingredients like shallots, peppers and herbs, seemed like a dream.
And it was!
In some ways, the marinade reminds me of this gazpacho steak that I invented many years back for my summer BBQ pleasures. The charred meat tastes smoky, spicy and bright thanks to all the acid (vinegar and lemon juice). And I love pairing the sticky cooked chicken with more of the raw sauce on the side to get the best of both worlds.
Speaking of the best of both worlds, the recipe below is designed to fit a sheet pan, for those of you who don’t have access to a summer grill. In Portugal, the chicken is served with a side of fries or thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes, which were often but not always gluten-free, and a simple salad.
Finishing the meat under the broiler allows for you to get a similar char, while combining the meat and potatoes under one roof means less clean-up. Plus, potatoes cooked in a little chicken fat cannot be beat. But you can easily throw the chicken on the grill instead and roast the potatoes separately in the oven. You do you!
Read on for the recipe for this sheet pan Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken (also spelled Piri Piri…I couldn’t figure out which was correct!).
Is there a BBQ dish that you’ve brought home from a different culture? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments section!
With health and hedonism,
Sheet Pan Peri Peri Chicken and Potatoes
- 1 small red bell pepper seeded, roughly chopped
- 1 small shallot roughly chopped
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 Fresno or other small red chili pepper seeded and chopped (see note)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 1/2 pounds baby yukon gold or new potatoes sliced 1/2 inch thick
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- In a small food processor, combine the bell pepper, shallot, garlic, hot pepper or harissa (see note), parsley or cilantro, paprika, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken with 1 cup of the piri piri sauce until well coated. Cover the chicken and marinate on a counter for 20 minutes, or for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, on a parchment lined baking sheet toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange in an even layer and nestle the chicken thighs among them. If they have to sit on top, that’s fine. Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the skin is starting to crisp.
- Turn on the broiler and transfer the pan to the top rack in your oven. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the chicken skin is lightly charred.
- Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a serving platter and serve alongside the excess sauce (see note), and a light salad.
If you can’t find a hot red pepper, you can either sub 1 jalapeno for a slightly less vibrant sauce, or 1 tablespoon harissa, which is the route I went.
I love the combination of the raw pepper sauce and the caramelized marinade, but if you prefer a warmer more developed sauce, simply heat the excess sauce in a small saucepan and reduce for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.