Published Apr 18, 2004

Since the Malaysian Tamarind Shrimp went so well, I decided to try another recipe from my Best of Sunset magazine (I’ve always found that a cookbook that gives one good recipe is filled with other tasty ones). Spicy Mediterranean chicken with a twist? Sign me up! Did it work? Well, suffice it to say that I will be using this magazine more in the future.

Chicken Piri Piri uses a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, chili flakes and oregano. I always like marinades with a good acid, to break down the meat and let the flavor in, and a good oil, to aid in browning (that’s where flavor comes from, after all). This marinade didn’t disappoint:

Now, the recipe suggested grilling. But we all know that the grill is just an outdoor broiler, so this dish was an obvious broil choice. But the broiler has a dark side: it’ll brown the heck out of the surface of your foodstuff but, often, at too high a rate to cook the inside fully. The solution: bake it first. I put the (boneless, skinless) chicken breasts in the oven at 350° for 15 minutes.

After that, the juices from the chicken were running just pink (a done chicken has clear-running juices when cut). Into the broiler for 10 minutes and it comes out great.

Meanwhile: the sauce. Marinades can be reused as sauce if brought to, and held at, a boil for a bit. Keep the marinade at said boil and it reduces to a nice thick sauce. Unless, as with the piri-piri, it contains an acid and an oil with no liaison. The recipe recommends butter, but I’m allergic to cow’s milk. I thought of using mustard, to make a vinaigrette, but mustards add flavor. I settled on a roux of flour and more oil (the starch in the flour would liaise the sauce). But how much roux to substitute for the butter? I decided to go with an equal amount. Tragically, that was too much; the sauce thickened within seconds to, at best, a tapenade. I quickly added a little frozen chicken stock (I freeze mine in icecube trays to always have some on hand — even a few quarts will last for months) and some water, and the sauce thinned to a good gravy.

The result: a wonderful dish!