Monday, March 2, 2009

Chicken Under a Brick

This is one of my all time favourite recipes—for chicken or anything else. I first read this recipe in Patricia Wells’ cookbook, ‘Patricia Wells Trattoria’, and have eaten it once or twice in Italian restaurants. I use this recipe regularly and it has never failed me. Be prepared for some splatter of oil, but it is so very worth the slight mess; Crisp and golden skin on the outside with succulent meat impossibly juicy beneath. This recipe is tried and true and a real keeper.

This is loosely Patricia Wells’ recipe:

1 free range chicken
Sea salt
¼ cup good quality olive oil

1) Place the chicken breast side down on a clean, flat surface. Using poultry shears, cut the backbone out (remove and save for stock or discard). Open the bird flat and flip it breast side up. Press down with the heel of your hands to make the bird as flat as possible. Alternatively, you can ask the butcher to ‘spatchcock’ your chicken (if you have the nerve). Season the bird with sea salt.

2) Using at least a 12 inch skillet (or larger), heat the oil over moderately high heat. When the oil looks to be quivering, place the chicken in breast side down, place a smaller lid on the bird and on top of that, a 10 pound can, or bricks, or rocks (I stack my cast iron pots on top, so it is teetering like something out of a Dr, Seuss book—not recommended)—anyway, you get the point, the chicken must be weighted down to cook properly. At this point, I set the timer (which is something I rarely do) for 13 minutes. Keep the heat moderately high all the time. After 13 minutes, the skin will be golden and gorgeous. Carefully now, remove the weights and lid and, using tongs, turn the bird over. Replace the lid and weights and cook this side for 13 minutes, as well. Pierce the thigh with a skewer or sharp knife—the chicken is done when the juices run clear.

3) Place the chicken on a platter, cover with aluminium foil and allow it to rest for 10-30 minutes. I usually cut into 10 pieces (cutting the breasts in half).

Serve with mashed potatoes or French fries or roasted potatoes, or simply with a green salad.

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