Chicken under a brick. Pollo al mattone

Every passionate cook has a dish they've always wanted to make. Chicken under a brick is mine. Right now, I'm the closest I've ever come to making it. I have all the ingredients, even went to Home Depot to buy bricks. Each night, something comes up resulting in an alternate dinner. The, "It's too late, I need to make something fast." excuse yielded manicotti with leftover sauce. Last night's, "I had a few too many drinks to be handling bricks in my kitchen." resulted in calling out for a stuffed meat lovers pizza. All tasty - but not the intended meal.

I've seen this recipe in countless cookbooks which I consume like novels. It's been featured on all the cooking shows worth watching (not Giada and her cleavage). The recipe is memorized as if I prepared it in a professional kitchen nightly for years. But has yet to make an appearance at Chez Lisa, my home kitchen.

The recipe is more of a method as opposed to an ingredient list. Take 1 tasty fryer chicken. Remove the backbone and butterfly it. Remove keel bone connecting the breasts. Cut off the wing tips and the last joint of the legs so they don't burn. Marinate if desired. The dish is native to Tuscany so I will marinate in Chianti vinegar, some of my costly olive oil, lemon thyme and garlic. Maybe I will push some lemon zest under the skin to protect it from burning. Grey salt and pepper and into a heavy skillet it goes, skin side down. Before the skin sets in the pan, I will weight each half of chicken with 1 cement brick wrapped in foil. Saute on medium for about 20 minutes. Remove bricks, flip chicken and finish in a 400 degree oven another 20 minutes. Why bricks? At over 5 lbs. each, they will cause the skin to become duck crackling crispy. Because the meat is pressed, it will have a nice meaty texture and the flavor will spread throughout so the bird will taste like happy poultry as opposed to, well, chicken.

I had fun sharing the recipe with the Home Depot clerk. He inquired as to why I would purchase only 2 bricks. Often they are sold by the pallet. He never anticipated that they were for cooking. And at only $.41 each, they're the least expensive cooking equipment I own!

Googling 'chicken under a brick' yields many worthy results, including another great blog that inspired this one, Gastronomie. Her recipe states that it's time to turn the chicken, "when the smell from the kitchen causes your husband to start drooling." Indeed, husband drool is a side effect of tasty dinners. That is why our apartment is littered with coffee cans. People think we dip, but no, there's a husband in captivity here.

Tonight I will try hard not to let anything take me away from the intended meal. I'll serve it with a warm salad of haricot verts with the same Chianti vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, cucumber and onion. Of course, I'll be back to share the triumphs.

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