I went to the place where builders buy their stuff … including bricks. I picked out two and went to the cash desk with them. The guy gave me a funny look (who on earth goes round buying only two bricks …) but then I explained that I was going to cook chicken with them and he broke into a smile: “Aaaa. Il pollo al mattone!” — and he charged me only 1 euro.
I am not sure what the original story is but it stands to reason that a brick would have been used to cook a butterflied chicken over a grill in order to keep it down with its weight and bring all of its flesh closer to the heat. I had ‘pollo al mattone’ at a restaurant in San Gimignano once and it was really sumptuous … crisp on the outside and moist and juicy and oily … the best chicken ever.
So I thought I would try something similar in the intimacy of my tiny galley kitchen which doesn’t even have a grill.
The result? Wonderful for the palate …. not so good as far as this blog is concerned. I forgot to take a ‘final’ photo, i.e. of the chicken in its serving dish. Very sloppy of me, my apologies.
But do try it … it’s very easy (if you have a brick that is … otherwise use a heavy pot filled with water) and the result is amazing.
Make sure the chicken is at room temperature (out of the fridge for at least two hours prior to cooking).
Cut the chicken into two or more pieces, leaving the skin on. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You could add other seasoning if you like … but I was in a ‘plain Jane salt-and-pepper will do me just fine’ mood.
Smear the bottom of a heavy frying pan (and iron cast one would be best) with just a small amount of olive oil and turn the heat on. Lay the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cover with some parchment paper …. and lay a brick on top of that.
Then I put the parchment paper and brick over it again.
It took me about 40 minutes altogether to cook the chicken pieces … turning them over 3 times (so that they cooked sort of evenly on both sides, in two stages).
Towards the end I added some rosemary.
And the table was laid, and I was on my second glass of wine and everyone was chatting and appreciating the aroma of the chicken (which I served with roast potatoes, zucchine and roasted bell peppers) …. and I forgot to take a photo!
Here is all that was left … chicken wings: cold ones at that, by the time I took this photo. But I hope it gives an idea of the gorgeous colour of the cooked chicken (actually it was even darker in parts, and beautifully crisp …).