Here’s the drill with butterflying — or spatchcocking — a bird. You cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears, then turn the bird over and press down on the breastbone until the bird lies somewhat flat.
It’s not difficult to do, but a) you need sharp kitchen shears, and b) you have to be comfortable using them on poultry. If either of those things poses a problem, ask the butcher to do it for you (that’s what I do).
Why spatchcock a chicken? It cooks more quickly and evenly, and also allows for some nice overall browning. Another somewhat arbitrary reason I discovered is that if you are using all of the racks in your oven, a spatchcocked chicken takes up less headroom. Fun fact.
Piri piri chicken originated in Africa when Portuguese settlers arrived with bird’s-eye chili peppers (“piri” means “pepper” in Swahili).
Here jalapenos are used, which have a more predictable level of heat and are readily available. Four jalapenos may seem like a lot, but once you remove the seeds and ribs and roast the peppers, you will be left with a soft, level, nice, smoky heat, but hardly a tongue-burning level of spiciness.
Use plastic gloves when handling the jalapenos or wash your hands right afterward with plenty of warm water and soap. You only have to touch your eyes or lips once with jalapeno hands to know why. The longer you marinate the chicken, the deeper the flavor.
If you don’t have hot paprika, substitute regular paprika and a couple of generous pinches of cayenne pepper.
Serve this chicken with rice, either plain or yellow, and a green salad. Beer would be a great companion. And should there be any leftovers, they make a great chicken salad.
CHICKEN PIRI PIRI
By Katie Workman
- 1 (3-1/2- to 4-pound) chicken
- 4 jalapeno peppers
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
If the chicken is already butterflied, move to the next step. If not, cut the backbone out with kitchen shears, then turn the bird over and press on the breastbone until the bird lies somewhat flat.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut jalapenos in half; remove seeds and stems. Spread on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast about 15 minutes, until slightly shriveled. Let jalapenos cool.
Combine jalapenos with remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender until it forms a paste.
Transfer chicken to a glass or nonreactive dish. Pour jalapeno mixture over chicken and flip it a few times so the chicken is coated well. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 12 hours.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Let chicken come to room temperature. Remove from marinade and place chicken skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast about 1 hour, until juices run clear when a sharp knife is inserted into the meaty part of the thigh.
Let sit about 15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve hot. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 587 calories, 44 g total fat, 11 g saturated fats, 170 mg cholesterol, 742 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, no sugar, 43 g protein.