This iconic Portuguese dish usually involves a whole, spatchcocked chicken. My version opts for ground chicken instead. If you can't find piri piri chilies, you can use a bird’s eye or other small red hot pepper. —Emma Laperruque
garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
piri piri chile, roughly chopped
red wine vinegar
Meatballs and potatoes
ground chicken, preferably a combo of white and dark meat
piri piri chilies, minced
olive oil, divided, plus more for pan-frying
potato chip crumbs
garlic cloves, minced
grated lemon zest
salt, divided plus more to taste
russet potatoes, scrubbed
In This Recipe
Start the sauce. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil to a very wide skillet—big enough to get the peppers and onions as spread out as possible. Set the skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s shimmery and hot, add the peppers and onions. Add the salt and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until soft and caramelized.
When the vegetables are done, transfer half to a blender and half to the freezer (to speed cooling for the meatball-mixing). Add the garlic and chile to the blender and process until mostly smooth. Add the vinegar and rest of the olive oil and process until as smooth as possible. Season with salt to taste.
Add the ground chicken, chilies, eggs, 3 tablespoons olive oil, potato chip crumbs, garlic, parsley, cilantro, lemon zest, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt to a big bowl. When the vegetables in the freezer are cool, add those, too. Mix until just combined. You don’t want to overwork it, or you’ll end up with dense meatballs. Stick the mixture in the fridge to set.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425° F. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half lengthwise. Now cut each half in half lengthwise again. This will yield 8 wedges from each potato. Add to a sheet pan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss. Lay each potato flat on one side. Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes halfway through, until both sides are very colorful and crusty.
After the potatoes have been in the oven for 10 or so minutes, get going on those meatballs. Set a very large skillet (maybe the same one you used for the peppers and onions) over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to reach a 1/4-inch or so depth. When the oil is shimmery and hot, use a cookie scoop (figure about 1 1/2 tablespoons) to dollop the meatball mixture into the hot oil. If you don’t have a scoop, you can use two spoons. The mixture is too wet to roll in your hands (because we don't want dry meatballs!). And you’ll need to do this in batches—don't overcrowd. Cook for about 8 minutes—progressively turning as they brown on each side—until cooked through and crusty all over. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Serve the meatballs and potatoes together with lots of piri piri sauce.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. She now lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, which is all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.