Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pollo al Mattone (Chicken under a Brick)

Pollo al Mattone has a lot of potential - the bricks on top of the chicken flatten it, which makes it cook faster, and force it to come in contact with the very hot pan, which makes it crispy. I tried chicken breasts under a brick a few weeks ago and they were a disaster. I don't think they were totally thawed, so parts of them were undercooked while others were burnt. But I didn't want to give up, so I tried Mark Bittman's recipe which starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. A cast iron frying pan is great for this meal. The chicken turned out juicy and crisp - incredibly flavorful. It cooks very quickly, too. However, if you are not excited about getting your hands all up in the chicken's business, and if it bothers you to cut through bone with kitchen shears, this is not the dish for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend it!

You'll need to start with a whole 3-4 lb. chicken that you butterfly (cut the backbone out). I've given instructions in the first step here. If you want to get really fancy, you can do what I did this time and spatchcock your chicken. Yeah, that's right. You'll cut out the backbone and the breastbone, and your chicken will lie very flat and be easy to carve.

Prep the chicken ahead of time so you can marinate it (the recipe below will go into detail). Take some bricks, or a heavy tile, or another cast iron pan to weigh down the chicken. Wrap your bricks in aluminum foil. Once the chicken is in the pan and the bricks are on top, it will look like this:


1 whole 3- to 4-pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, dried and split, backbone removed
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon peeled and coarsely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, optional
1 lemon, cut into quarters

1. Place the chicken on a cutting board, skin side down, and using your hands, press down hard to make it as flat as possible. Mix together the rosemary leaves, salt, pepper, garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and rub this all over the chicken. Tuck some of the mixture under the skin as well. If time permits, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to a day (even 20 minutes of marinating boosts the flavor).

2. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Preheat an ovenproof 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron; nonstick usually is safe to 450) over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Press rosemary sprigs, if using, into the skin side of the chicken. Put remaining olive oil in the pan and wait about 30 seconds for it to heat up.

3. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down, along with any remaining pieces of rosemary and garlic; weight it with another skillet or with one or two bricks or rocks, wrapped in aluminum foil. The idea is to flatten the chicken by applying weight evenly over its surface.

4. Cook over medium-high to high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and remove the weights; turn the chicken over (it will now be skin side up) and roast 10 minutes more, or until done (large chickens may take an additional 10 minutes or so; cook the breast to 160 or the legs to 165). Serve hot or at room temperature, with lemon wedges.


Alison... said...

Holy Smokes!

That looks so good, I nearly licked my computer screen.


But chicken under a brick... leave it to you!

Glad you didn't give up on that one and thank you for putting a meal entry!

Stephanie Carnes said...

Yes, I remembered your request for an entree! Glad you liked it.

Kristen said...

i'm all about getting my hands all up in a chickens business. that looks fun... i'll probably skip the wrapping of the bricks... you only live once. ;-)

Michael. Bonavita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael. Bonavita said...

Good recipe

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