Monday, February 16, 2009

Brazilian-Spiced Chicken: A Tropical Elixir for Cold Nights

By Pat Tanner

A while back, I attended a fascinating lecture, cooking demo, and dinner at Promise Jobs Culinary School in New Brunswick that focused on foods from the African Diaspora. Among the many things I learned is that Brazil boasts the largest population of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, and it turned out that my favorite dish that night was a simple-to-prepare roast chicken with a distinct Brazilian mojo.

A coating of coconut milk mixed with flavors of the tropics - warm spices, citrus, and a hit of jalapeno – provides a welcome tonic this time of year when the warmth of summer sun on our backs seems a long way off.

The recipe is from Chef Pearl Thompson, director of Promise Jobs. The school is an outgrowth of Elijah’s Promise, the soup kitchen and social services organization that has been helping low-income people in central New Jersey since 1989. It is seeing skyrocketing numbers of people show up for meals at its various programs – one alone grew from an average of 20 people to 150. To volunteer or to make a contribution visit

Adapted by Chef Pearl Thompson, Promise Jobs Culinary School

1 tablespoons minced jalapeno (about 1 large chile)
1-1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine jalapeno, garlic, salt, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, zests, and coconut milk to form a paste. Rub chicken skin and inner cavity with spice paste. Tie chicken to secure legs. Bake in a roasting pan for 25 minutes; reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes more, or until juices run clear.
Serves 4.

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