One New Med Recipe: Chicken Under a Brick
When I was planning the menu for a dinner with Dun's son Porter and his wife Serena and their children, Suzannah and Abbott, I wanted to try a Mediterranean chicken recipe. One of my favorite ways to make chicken in the summer is the classic, Chicken al Mattone ("Chicken Under a Brick") on the grill, but it's still winter in Boston and I live in an apartment without a grill in sight.
Happily I found a roasting recipe for Chicken al Mattone by Ron Suhanosky. A recipe by Ron was especially fun because his original Sfoglia Restaurant is on Nantucket where Dun and his family have spent their summers. Published in Bon Appetit magazine (part of the September 2009 cover story), this version is cooked partially on top of the stove and the other half in the oven -- all in a cast-iron skillet. The trick of the "Under a Brick" or al Mattone is that the aluminum foil-wrapped brick (or other heavy object like another skillet or heavy casserole) presses the chicken down so it cooks evenly and ends up golden and moist. The Tuscan version features rosemary and parsley plus a very small amount of crushed red pepper for seasoning.
Interestingly, I had always thought Chicken under a Brick was a Tuscan classic, but in searching for a recipe, I discovered that this dish is from Georgia, the beautiful country that was a former Republic of the Soviet Union. Called Chicken Tabaka rather than Chicken al Mattone, the recipes are virtually identical, except for the seasonings (paprika, turmeric, chili peppers for Chicken Tabaka instead of al Mattone's rosemary and parsley). The way to prepare it and the moist and juicy results are the same!
1 4-pound whole chicken, backbone cut away and discarded, rinsed, patted dry
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary plus additional sprigs for garnish
1 garlic clove, pressed
Coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley
Brick wrapped in aluminum foil or heavy cast-iron skillet
Mix 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, and garlic in small bowl. Open chicken flat like a book ("butterfly" it), then rub lemon-oil-herb mixture all over both sides of chicken. Cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle chicken with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 7 minutes (do not turn chicken over).
Place one or two foil-wrapped bricks (or a cast-iron skillet) across the top of the chicken; roast in oven 30 minutes. Remove brick(s) and turn chicken over; return brick(s) to chicken and continue to roast until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced, about 15 minutes longer. Remove brick(s) and transfer chicken to platter. Drizzle chicken with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and sprinkle with crushed red pepper and parsley. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.
Adapted from recipe by Ron Suhanosky, from Bon Appetit, September 2009