How are you celebrating the last official weekend of summer? On Labor Day, I will be performing at the Kansas City Symphony’s “Pops in the Park” concert at Shawnee Mission Park. It’s a free concert and a great way to kick off the symphonic season in a relaxed, outside venue. Audience members bring their lawn chairs and blankets and pack a picnic. I suppose people could make a batch of peri-peri chicken and eat it cold, but I defy you to not eat it hot, coming off the grill.
From where does this recipe come? I recently returned from spending the summer with my fiancé, Sandra Leeson, on the Gold Coast in Coomera, near Brisbane, Australia. Since returning to Kansas City, my grill calls to me, where I will prepare food outside, even in the wintertime.
This recipe is inspired from a popular chain of restaurants in Australia called Nando’s. I believe the chain originated in South Africa, but they make a Portuguese-style grilled chicken with this peri-peri sauce. It is kind of amazing and addictive, so after spending the last five summers in Australia, I came back to Kansas City and looked for recipes online that would approximate the sauce that Nando’s put on their chicken. There are many versions of the peri-peri sauce, and what I make is basically my version of it, with ideas I’ve taken from different recipes.
I most often use peri-peri sauce on chicken drumsticks, but it’s also good on chicken wings, whole chickens, chicken sandwiches, shrimp and even steak. I will make a large batch of peri-peri sauce and have it in the refrigerator, so it’s easy to make peri-peri chicken in a pinch.
Music and food both seem to be universal languages, because both can be a source of joy that defies explanation. That is true and it seems that musicians never miss an opportunity to eat and drink together. Before I left for Australia this summer, this chicken was in demand among my friends. It got to the point where I laughingly thought I was going to get tendinitis from turning chicken legs on the grill!
Although I started grilling on the sand beaches in New England for my parents (Ed and Vivian Gordon), who live Glocester, R.I., grilling is an integral part of Kansas City’s culture. It’s also an easy way to make a healthy meal: Put meat and veg on the grill and dinner’s done.
Do you collaborate with musicians in the kitchen, too? Musicians are creative folk. I think food can be another creative outlet for musicians and, when it’s done right, there’s a sensuality to both disciplines, and each can illicit an emotional response.
Both food and music are great ways to welcome people. My home is often a place where musicians traveling through will stay, and it is jokingly called “The Heartland Resort & Spa.” It’s great for me, because you really get to know others in the orchestra when you make a meal together. I have many friends that I enjoy collaborating with in the kitchen, too.
I am still experimenting with this sauce and will do variations on a peri-peri chicken theme. But it’s wonderful when different flavors all come together to make something delicious you’ve never had before, and I guess the same principle can be applied to different musicians and instruments all coming together to make really beautiful music.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Occupation: Kansas City Symphony flutist
Residence: Kansas City
Special cooking interest: Grilling
LABOR DAY PERFORMANCE
Enjoy Kansas City Symphony’s annual “Pops in the Park,” performed on Monday at the Theatre in the Park in Shawnee Mission Park, 7710 Renner Road in Shawnee. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs and blankets to the free concert. The parking lot opens at 4:30 p.m., with gates to the seating area opening at 5 p.m. The Youth Symphony performs at 6 p.m. and the Symphony takes the stage at 7 p.m. Visit kcsymphony.org or call 816-471-0400 for more information.
Gordon’s Peri-Peri Chicken
This recipe can be easily doubled and is based on Nando’s restaurant chain version of peri-peri chicken. The dish can also be known as piri-piri chicken.
Makes 12 servings
For the sauce:
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 serrano pepper, stem removed
2 chile de árbol peppers, stems removed
6 cloves garlic, skins removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh oregano
For the chicken:
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
12 chicken drumsticks
To make the sauce: Prepare a hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting or heat a gas grill to 450 degrees. Place red bell pepper directly over hot coals or over high heat and, using tongs, turn until charred on all sides.
Remove stem and seeds from roasted pepper and place in medium saucepan. Stir in olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, serrano and chile de árbol peppers and garlic cloves. Season with salt and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat on stovetop. Reduce heat to low, place lid tightly on pan and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until peppers and garlic are soft.
Remove from heat and add fresh oregano. Puree mixture using a stick or conventional blender until sauce is smooth and homogenous. If desired, pour mixture through a chinois to remove seeds from sauce. Set aside and allow to cool.
To make the chicken: In a small bowl, whisk salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder together. Place drumsticks on a baking sheet and season with salt mixture.
Place drumsticks over hot coals or high heat on grill and using long tongs, turn chicken until skin becomes crispy and golden brown, or about 15 minutes
Move drumsticks to side of grill without coals or away from the heating element when a gas grill is turned down to low, about 350 degrees. Place lid tightly on grill and grill chicken over indirect heat or on low for about 25 minutes. Remove lid, turn drumsticks, replace cover and continue to grill over indirect heat or low for an additional 25 minutes.
Insert a meat thermometer into meat of chicken leg, without touching the bone. Remove meat from grill when the internal temperature reads at least 165 degrees.
Pour 1/4 cup sauce into a large bowl. When pulling a drumstick from the grill, place in bowl with prepared sauce and toss until evenly coated. Add more sauce to bowl, 1/4 cup at a time, as needed after coating each piece of chicken generously.
Place coated drumsticks on serving platter and serve immediately with any leftover peri-peri sauce not used to coat chicken pieces.
Per serving: 206 calories (70 percent from fat), 16 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 41 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 512 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.