“Ultramar,” the Portuguese word for “overseas,” was used for centuries to describe the country’s various colonies, including those in Mozambique, on Africa’s southeast coast. A variant of the term also was applied to residents of those lands, who often mixed Portuguese traditions with native customs. As history unfolded, the years refined the mixture and led to unique combinations that influenced the culture, including the cuisine.
One such development is Mozambique Grilled Chicken with Coconut Rice and Chile-Lime Sauce, which Food & Wine detailed in its May 2019 issue. While the chicken and the rice are aromatic and are engagingly flavored, both merely warm in comparison to the Chile-Lime Sauce that scintillates amidst them. Don’t rely merely on this description, though – just look at those vibrant colors at the plate’s center!
The sauce is lustrous and tangy, due to a generous supply of silky coconut milk spiked with tomatoes and fresh lime juice. Its defining character, though, comes from assertive chilies blended into the mix and added afterwards too for an additional kick. Nothing coconut milk can’t tame, but retaining enough heat to set taste buds tingling. It’s especially provocative when drizzled over the mildly sweet, almost toasty, coconut rice.
Where the mixture is particularly beguiling, though, is when it enlivens the chicken. The preparation gives the sauce two opportunities to thrill, both as a dipping option enhancing the final meal, and as a lively basting medium brushed on as the bird grills. As such, though, it only contributes the second layer of flavor. The first comes from the piquant shallot-lemon juice slurry in which the poultry marinates overnight:This week’s production remains at its heart a Portuguese dish, but one that’s picked up the spirit of years spent in Africa. The chicken, the shallots, the wine vinegar and the lemon all identify the mother country, but the peppers, limes, coconut and rice bear the unmistakable markers of more tropical climes. It’s Portugal as remembered from Africa’s shores.
Grilled Chicken with Coconut Rice and Chile-Lime Sauce
- 3 large shallots (*1)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 5 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3 pounds whole bone-in chicken pieces, skin scored at one-inch intervals
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can of coconut milk
- 1 small tomato, chopped
- 2 tablespoons, plus two teaspoons of chopped Fresno chilies, divided
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
- lime wedges, for serving
Coarsely chop 2 of the shallots to equal about two cups. Thinly slice the remaining shallot and set aside.
Place chopped onion, garlic, lemon juice and vinegar in a blender. Start at low speed then, over the course of 15 seconds, increase the speed until you have a smooth paste. Stir in a tablespoon of salt, then pour into a large zip-top bag. Add the chicken pieces, force out as much air as you can, then seal the top. Massage the mixture into the chicken, being sure to cover all the meat. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, up to a whole day.
Open the can of coconut milk, being careful not to jostle it. Skim off the coconut cream that’s risen to the top and put it in a small saucepan. Reserve the remaining coconut milk for the rice.
To the coconut cream in the saucepan, add the remaining sliced shallot, the tomato and 2 tablespoons of the chopped chilies. Bring to a boil over a medium flame and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables ae tender, about ten minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then pour into a blender. Process until smooth, about 15 seconds.
Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the lime juice, sugar, and remaining two tablespoons of chopped chilies. Pour 1/2 cup of the mixture into a bowl, to be used to baste the chicken when grilling. Reserve the rest for serving as a dipping sauce.
In a medium saucepan place the uncooked rice, the reserved coconut milk, one cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over a medium-high flame, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered.
While the rice stands, Heat a grill to high on one side, while leaving the other side unlit. Lower the lid, and once the temperature reaches 450°, reduce heat to medium.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade and season the chicken with salt. Place the chicken on the unlit half of the grill and cook, turning occasionally, for 40 minutes. Brush the chicken occasionally with the chile-lime sauce you reserved for the purpose.
Serve the chicken with the coconut rice, the rest of the chile-lime sauce, and lime wedges.
1 – The original recipe calls for three small onions. Aren’t three large shallots a better choice? Just look at the colors in that marinade.