This fiery chicken dish gives crisp-skinned, tender chicken the chili spotlight it deserves. Tanged with olives and capers, its rich and fiery cherry tomato sauce is lightly sweetened by bell peppers. Serve with crunchy potatoes, roasted with garlic, and rosemary.
The huge appeal of our spicy, Mediterranean-sauced fiery chicken dish is how the main ingredients reveal themselves in a contrasting mix of flavors and textures. There’s a lot — and I mean a lot — to be enjoyed here.
And that top result mostly comes from cooking the chicken and sauce separately. They only come together under a hot broiler to quickly crisp the chicken as it sits on its base of sauce.
Big, strong flavors love fiery chilies
Black olives and tart, salty capers. That pair is certainly not shy about their flavors. Neither are sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. Especially when they’re lazily melted down with onion, bell peppers, bay leaves, garlic, and oregano in some butter and olive oil.
Those sturdy flavors are the reason why the sauce marries so well with the lingering, fruity heat of red bird’s eye chilies — especially when they’re cut into 1/4 inch rounds, seeds and all.
And that happy after-burn is going to be, yet again, quite different with the hit of cayenne pepper in your chicken’s yogurt and lime juice marinade.
Fiery chicken deserves quality poultry
This is not an expensive dish to make. But it does merit buying some pretty good chicken — the closer to truly free-range the better. For me, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are the way to go. Breasts have too subtle a savor in a rich dish like this and little, snacky drumsticks and wings are really best on the BBQ.
Make it slowly to make it outstandingly well
This is leisurely, stroll-along cooking. After just enough frying heat to give the chicken some golden color, it then sits covered on a low heat to poach in its tenderizing juices. The idea here is to lock in the flavors of the chicken and its marinade. Its short time under a hot, fast-crisping broiler only comes later.
You’ll also create the rich, Mediterranean sauce in a slow, relaxed way. Onions, garlic, and chilies have their flavors melted out of them in a barely sizzling mix of butter and olive oil. Same story with the cherry tomatoes, but less so for the later-added bell peppers which will keep a little of their crispness.
Only once the sauce is almost done do the olives and capers join in — allowing much of their distinctive flavor to shine through.
For me, it’s a grand dish for a long and happy weekend lunch. And there isn’t much better than that.
Like this recipe? You’ll love these too:
- Chicken Tikka Masala: The emperor of curries – so delicious.
- Peri-Peri Chicken: A fiery taste of South Africa.
- Jalapeño Fried Chicken: Double the spice – in the breading and the brine.
Fiery Chicken With Knockout Mediterranean Sauce
For the Mediterranean sauce
- 6 fresh red bird’s eye chilies sliced into ¼ inch rounds, seeds and all
- 1 pound ripe cherry tomatoes halved
- 8 ounces tomato puree
- 1 yellow onion peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 medium-sized red bell pepper halved, de-seeded and sliced lengthways into 1/3 inch strips
- 1 medium-sized green bell pepper halved, de-seeded and sliced lengthways into 1/3 inch strips
- 2 heaped teaspoons fresh oregano finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 heaped teaspoons ground sea salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 20 capers drained of their juice and finely chopped
- 16 pitted black olives left whole
For the chicken and its marinade
For the potatoes
- 6 medium-sized floury potatoes peeled and cut into more or less 1 ½ inch chunks. Russets or Golden Wonder would be a grand choice
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary 6-inch sprigs
- 8 cloves garlic un-peeled and slightly crushed
- 2 heaped teaspoons ground sea salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Marinating the chicken
- Combine all the marinade ingredients – yogurt, lime juices, and cayenne pepper – in a good-sized mixing bowl. Lightly prick the skin of the chicken thighs with the tip of a sharp knife. This allows the marinade to penetrate more easily and also means the skin won’t contract too much when the thighs get their turn under the hot broiler. Add the chicken to marinade and use your fingers to make sure the thighs get thoroughly coated. Set aside for 40 minutes.
Braising the chicken thighs
- Set a big skillet (12-inch is grand) on a high heat and add the butter and olive oil. As soon as the buttery oil starts to foam, add the thighs, skin side up. Let the chicken sizzle hotly for 3 minutes, and then drop the heat to medium-low. Do not turn the chicken, but just let it cook on that medium-low heat for another 5 minutes. You’re looking to get a deep golden colour only on the underside of the thighs.
- Now cover the skillet with a tight-fitting ‘lid’ of silver foil and drop the heat to its lowest setting. Allow to cook like this for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the chicken sit in the skillet under the tight ‘lid’. What you’re aiming for here is to poach the chicken in skillet’s steamy juices.
For the potatoes
- Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the olive oil to a heavy metal baking dish big enough to hold all the potatoes in a single layer, and set the dish in the oven while it’s heating.
- Put the potatoes in a saucepan with a level teaspoon of ground sea salt and just enough cold water to cover them. Set the pan on a high heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and allow the potatoes to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, drain the potatoes and return them to their pan. Cover the pan and let the potatoes steam there for 5 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, and set it onto a medium heat on the stovetop. Quickly add the potatoes, salt, black pepper, and garlic cloves. Stir so the potatoes get well coated in the salt, pepper, and sizzling oil. Remove from the heat, add the rosemary sprigs, and cover the dish with a sealing sheet of tin foil. Return the dish to the oven on a high shelf and increase the heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes. (That tight foil covering matters because it ensures the potatoes become infused with wonderful flavors of garlic and rosemary.)
- After that first 15 minutes in the oven, remove the dish and give all the potatoes a quick turn. Return them to the oven – uncovered – to roast for another 10 mins. Done.
For the sauce
- While the potatoes are roasting away in the oven, you can make the sauce. Start by adding the olive oil and butter to a saucepan set on medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions, garlic, chilis and salt. (Adding the salt now helps pull out their flavors.) Stir well. Drop the heat to low-medium and cook for 10 minutes, with the occasional stir until the onions have really softened – but not taken on any color. Add the cherry tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar, stir, and cook for another 15 minutes on that low-medium heat. Break up the tomatoes a little as they soften with some bold stirring but do let them keep some of their body.
- Tip in the sliced peppers and tomato puree. Stir and raise the heat to medium-high until the sauce just bubbles. Drop the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring a few times – there’s not yet much liquid yet in the sauce.
- Stir in half stock, and let the sauce cook covered for 10 minutes. Now add the remaining stock, olives and capers. Stir. Let in cook for another 5 minutes on low heat just so that the peppers are al-dente. Check for salt and chili heat, adjust to taste. Done.
Bringing it all together
- Set your broiler to medium-high. Pour the sauce into a good-sized oven-proof serving dish. Arrange the chicken carefully on top of sauce – just so it lays there, don’t push it down into the sauce. Baste the chicken with the pan juices and set the dish under the broiler until the chicken skin is nicely browned and crisp. Serve.
- Plate the chicken with sauce and potatoes alongside.