Almost every Sunday, when we lived in São Paulo, we would walk over to the bakery just down the hill from our apartment, and buy 2 chickens. Even today, I can almost smell the aroma wafting up from the bakery, more than 15 years later. They were a memory that was worth trying to recreate. In our São Paulo neighborhood, quite a number of households didn’t cook. They had “people” for that. You could only get the chickens on Sunday, because you see, Sunday was the maid’s day off, so it was either pizza or these chickens. Practically every bakery, and there was a bakery on almost every block, had these types of chickens and the one near us served theirs with potatoes. These bakeries had spectacularly delicious bread, too. And many had a little lunch counter and “coffee bar”. As you might imagine, coffee was everywhere in Brazil. But back to the bakeries and their chickens. What made the potatoes so good, was that they were par-boiled and then placed in the broaster under the chickens. Then, as the chickens turned on the spit, the goodness on the chicken dripped down and those potatoes finished cooking in that deliciously, flavored broth. When you purchased your chickens, the attendant would cut the chicken into pieces, place them in a plastic bag-lined take-out box, throw some of those potatoes on top and then drizzle a couple of large spoons for the drippings over everything. You would buy a loaf of bread, because there were drippings to mop up…I did mention drippings, right? (Inhaling deeply…) I swear I can smell that aroma right now. Which is okay, because I have my version of Brazilian chicken in the oven, with potatoes, at this very moment. I haven’t quite recreated it perfectly. Maybe the memory is better than the chicken was, or maybe it was that walk to the bakery and the moment itself. So this will have to do…for the moment.
Let’s break this down a bit. It’s much simpler than this sounds. Once you do taste this, this will be your go-to dinner and it’s great for entertaining, as well. I make up a triple batch of the rub (it makes a great gift from the kitchen, too). It’s also pretty good sprinkled on the potatoes. You’ll want to use 3-4 teaspoons per chicken.
To simulate the broaster, I use a rack that has “legs” and stands above the potatoes by about 2 inches, but one that rests on the edges of the pan will work very well, too.
The day before, so Saturday, make your seasoning and rub that all over the chicken, getting it into every possible nook and cranny. When you do this, get up close and personal with your fowl. Refrigerate it overnight or up to 48 hours.
When you par-boil the potatoes, you’ll want all of them to be about the same size. I cooked these for about 8 minutes. It’s difficult to see, but the center is still quite raw; it’s a bit lighter in color. Place the par-boiled potatoes in a deep pan (at least 2 inches deep and preferably one that can go on the burner, but that’s not a deal breaker), and add the broth. Place a cooling rack, over the potatoes, then the seasoned chicken on the rack. It’s a good idea to take the chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you’re going to cook it. Just before you slide the chicken into the oven, “shower” it with some extra salt.
You should be able to see some grains of salt on the bird (there in the middle of the breast). This will make for a crisper skin. Most Brazilians I know have never met a salt shaker they don’t love…black pepper it another matter entirely. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice is nice, so you might want to have a bowl of wedges on the table.
Brazilian Bakery Sunday Chicken with Potatoes
- 1 (3-4 pound) whole chickens (giblets and neck removed)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (for the cavity)
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
For the rub:
- 1 1/2 teaspoon onion granules
- 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (use more if you want)
- 1/4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 lbs fingerling or other baby potatoes, unpeeled
- water to cover
- 1/2-1 cup chicken broth
- Extra salt for sprinkling on the bird
The night before you’re going to cook the chicken, place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside. Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
Rub the salt into the cavity and pour the vinegar and olive oil over the chicken; rub it all over the bird. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the chicken, getting some inside the cavity, as well. Rub it in very well; make certain you get the back, too. Toss the chicken in a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, seal the bag and place the bagged up chicken on a plate; place in the fridge overnight. If you think to turn it, before you go to bed, that would be great, but not necessary.
The next day, remove the chicken from the fridge and let set on the counter for about 30 minutes before you’re going to put it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
While the chicken rests, place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. The potatoes should be about the same size; cut larger potatoes in half or quarters, if needed. Boil gently for about 6-8 minutes; the cook time will depend on the size of the potatoes. Spear with a knife tip; the potatoes should be barely cooked, certainly no more than about half-cooked through. Remove the pot and drain the potatoes; set aside.
To simulate the broaster, I place the potatoes in a deep pan (at least 2 inches deep and preferably one that can go on the burner, but that’s not a deal breaker), and pour the broth over them. Place a cooling rack, that is large enough to rest on the edges of the pan, over the potatoes, then place the chicken on the rack. Pop the pan in the oven, but be careful when transferring it, as the rack can slip and the chicken can fall…not good. Roast the chicken for about 20 minutes per pound or until the chicken is done (the thigh should register 180°F on an instant-read thermometer) 60-75 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the chicken to a serving dish; loosely tent the chicken with foil. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
While the chicken rests, drain the drippings into a pitcher; skim off the fat. You may thicken the drippings with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry, but that isn’t essential. Cut the chicken into quarters or as desired. Serve the chicken with the potatoes on the side and some good bread to sop up the juices.
Brazilian Bakery Sunday Chicken with Potatoes Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
If you don’t wish to roast a whole chicken, I seasoned some bone-in, skin-on thighs and just placed them skin side-up directly on top of the potatoes. It worked pretty well, but of course the bottom of the chicken didn’t brown, but you could put them on a rack, as well. They were still wonderful. I would imagine you could use bone-in, skin-on breasts. When you use pieces of chicken, you’ll need to cook the potatoes until they are at least half-cooked through. Whatever you choose to do, it will be delicious.
Now that’s Sunday dinner, Brazilian style!