Tender chicken with crisp, golden brown skin, baked on top of creamy risotto-style rice, flavored with spicy, tangy Peri-Peri Sauce. Watch out, this dish is addictive.
So who is this ‘Nando’ and why is he so cheeky? No, seriously, I really want to know.
Being an American, the phrase ‘cheeky Nandos’ means almost nothing to me but for some inexplicable reason, it became stuck in my head the other day. I asked Matt (a Brit) what it meant and all he did was laugh, jump around and scream “Cheeky Nandos! Cheeky Nandos!” for about an hour until I was forced to distract him with a shiny Doctor Who marathon. Not helpful.
In this rare case, even the internet failed me. When I googled “What is cheeky nandos. Help, confused american.,” it suggested this article. This a sample explanation:
you know when you go down town with the lads and you all realize you’re hank marvin’ so you say “lads let’s go Maccers” but your mate Smithy a.k.a. The Bantersaurus Rex has some mula left on his nandos gift card and he’s like “mate let’s a have a cheeky nandos on me” and you go “Smithy my son you’re an absolute ledge” so you go have an extra cheeky nandos with a side order of Top Quality Banter
So… yeah. Much clearer now. Thanks.
Okay, so after weeks (okay, minutes) of sleuthing, this is what I’ve come up with. Nando’s is a chain of restaurants that sell inexpensive but tasty grilled chicken and rice dishes flavored with Peri-Peri sauce. Peri-Peri (or Piri-Piri) is a spicy, garlicky, chili-based sauce, Portuguese in origin, but popular in Africa and, now, all over the world. It appears to have some kind of hypnotic and possibly hallucinatory effect on very drunk, young, British men.
Now on to the important thing; the recipe. While Nandos brand Peri-Peri sauce is available over the internet, it’s not the only brand in town. Check the sauce aisle in your local store and you just might find a version. Be warned, the spice level can vary greatly so start with less and add more as desired.
And I have to tell you, sauce or no sauce, this is now my all time favorite way to cook chicken and rice. It’s so easy and what you end up with is tender, juicy chicken with what is basically a creamy risotto underneath it. All in one pan, and ready in under an hour. And you don’t need to stand over it constantly stirring. No kidding, it’s amazing.
- Use a whole cut up chicken or an assortment of your favorite parts.
- I like Carnaroli rice best because it holds it shape much better than Arborio but either work fine. Really, any short grain rice would work here.
- Brown the chicken well, both for color and because you want it to finish cooking by the time the rice is ready.
- Make sure you use a pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. That way the chicken will brown, not steam. Cast iron is a great choice for this.
- 1 chicken (about 3½ pounds), cut up into serving pieces or assorted thighs or breasts, bone-in, skin-on
- Kkosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- ¼ - ½ cup Peri-Peri Sauce (depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1 cup peas (frozen are fine; no need to thaw them)
- ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro or parsley
- 2 limes, quartered, for serving
- Dry chicken and season with salt and pepper. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook, undisturbed until the chicken is golden brown and releases easily from the pan, 7 to 10 minutes. Then turn and brown the other side, 5 minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and pour or spoon off most of the oil so that only 2 tablespoons remain. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook for another minute. Pour the rice into the pan and stir until coated with oil and slightly toasted. Add wine and stir until it’s mostly absorbed, 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and the Peri-Peri sauce and stir everything together.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then return the chicken to the pan, skin-side up, reduce the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Cover the skillet and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes, then check the rice and chicken. You want to have the liquid absorbed, the rice tender, and the chicken just cooked through. (If all the liquid is absorbed before the chicken is ready, add another ¼ cup water or stock and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes). The meat is done when a quick-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 155º–165°F.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning. Add more peri peri if you want it spicier. Add the peas, then cover the pan again and let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and transfer it to a serving platter. Fluff the rice with a fork, spoon it around the chicken, sprinkle over the cilantro, add the lime wedges, and serve with extra sauce on the side.