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Chicken al Mattone

Chicken al Mattone


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Ingredients

  • 1 4-pound whole chicken, backbone cut away and discarded, rinsed, patted dry
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary plus additional sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Recipe Preparation

  • Open chicken flat like book; place butterflied chicken, skin side down, on rimmed baking sheet. Mix 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, and garlic in small bowl. Rub 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 foil-wrapped brick (or cast-iron skillet) crosswise atop chicken; roast in oven 30 minutes. Remove brick and turn chicken over; return brick to chicken and continue to roast until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced, about 15 minutes longer. Remove brick 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.

Reviews Section

Get Cooking: Baking chicken under a brick

Chicken Under a Brick read to go into the oven. (Bill St. John, Special to The Denver Post)

When out on campaign, especially in what was known as a “full pace march,” Julius Caesar’s soldiers were expected to cook for themselves. (On slower marches, their accompanying servants or slaves cooked for them.) Roman legionnaires and centurions didn’t benefit from any sort of mess hall. Quartermasters didn’t stock food in large part, they were mere blacksmiths. And, nope, no chuck wagons.

Consequently, a Roman soldier lugged his own food, as well as the implements needed to cook it. Chief among these was the clibanus (also called the testum), a sort of small upside-down Dutch oven made of thick-walled clay. What we would call the top of the Dutch oven was the bottom “plate” of the clibanus, while the pot-like portion would be placed over it, like a dome, topped with fiery hot coals. The heat radiated down and cooked or baked what was in the cavity. Cato and Pliny recount many “sub testum” recipes. (Modern-day campers cook in a similar manner with cast-iron Dutch ovens.)

In time, and in order to roast small game or fowl, a heavy, glazed terracotta tile (what in Italian is called a mattone) replaced the hollow part of the clibanus and was designed to apply significant weight on the meat cooking under it, which by now was heated from below by a flame or all around within an oven. You can buy such two-part, all-clay cooking set, with a mattone, in shops in Tuscany, especially in the coastal region around Lucca.

Thus, we inherit the recipe for “pollo al mattone,” or “chicken under a brick,” to my mind one of the more delicious ways to prepare a small 3- to 4-pound fryer.

Chicken under a brick (Pollo al mattone)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole, small to medium chicken, 3-4 pounds, the cavity trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (not overly fruity or peppery), plus more for cooking
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus another lemon in wedges for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles, finely minced (or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed in the palm)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for serving

Spatchcock the chicken: Rinse then pat dry the chicken and place it breast-side down on the cutting board, its neck turned away from you. With kitchen shears or a boning knife, cut along the backbone, tail to neck, tight along one side of the backbone, Repeat along the other side, discarding backbone. (If you wish, save the bone for making broth.)

Flip the bird over breast-side up and press down with both hands, as if performing CPR, until you hear the breastbone crack. Flatten the whole thing as best you can and place it on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper or in a non-reactive pan large enough to hold it but that also will fit in the refrigerator.

Make the marinade: In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, the juice and zest of the 1 lemon, the pepper flakes, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper.

Slather the marinade all over and under the spatchcocked chicken (even under some of the breast skin, if you like), cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. If you’re up in the middle of the night, turn it over and re-cover it. Before cooking, bring it out of the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To cook, heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy, oven-proof skillet large enough to hold the chicken flat (such as 12-inch cast iron or heavy aluminum), and over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil until it shimmers. Take the chicken and shake off any pieces of garlic or lemon peel from the marinade and add it to the skillet, skin-side down. Quickly top the chicken with a heavy object(s) (see important note below) the bottom of which is oiled or coated with cooking spray and that evenly presses down on as much of the surface of the chicken as possible. Cook this way for 5 minutes.

Place the pan, the chicken and its weights in the oven and roast the chicken for 25 minutes. Remove the pan, pull off the weights, flip the chicken skin-side up, then replace the weights and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a thermometer reads 150 degrees in the breast, or until the juices run clear at the thigh joint.

To serve: Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes on the cutting board. Carve the chicken into pieces, serving it with the pan juices, lemon wedges, and chopped parsley.


HISTORY of Pollo al Mattone:

It is said that this dish was "born" in Impruneta, a small town nestled in the hills of Tuscany, right outside of Florence, Italy. Impruneta, is world renown for their beautiful terra cotta pottery. In fact, this dish was traditionally prepared by using a large terra cotta plate and terra cotta lid which were previously heated up in the wood-fired oven. The chicken was then placed on one plate and covered with the other heavy lid in order to keep it flat and pressed down. It was then placed in the hot wood-fired oven. Some would argue that the origine of this dish dates back even further, and more specifically to the ancient Etruscans. One thing we know for certain, that even today Pollo al Mattone is a delicious, timeless dish enjoyed in many kitchens and restaurants. With excellent results, we have chosen to use cast iron pots and two bricks and a fabulous wood-fired oven to get the job done.

What is your favorite way to prepare chicken in the oven?

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and tag #fontanaforniusa with an image of your Pollo al mattone made with this recipe.


Chicken al Mattone

Recipe adapted from Nate Macaulay, Lukshon, Los Angeles, CA

Yield: Serves 2

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

Salsa verde

2 Calabrian chiles (Italian pickled red chile peppers) or any jarred pickled chiles, roughly chopped

1 scallion, light green and white parts only, roughly chopped

½ garlic clove, roughly chopped

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, tough bottom stems removed and leaves and top stems roughly chopped

⅓ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

¾ teaspoon granulated sugar

4 boneless skin-on chicken thighs

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon fennel pollen powder (optional)

1 ounce Taleggio cheese sliced into two 1-inch-by-½-inch cubes and frozen on a small plate

Directions

1. Make the salsa verde: Using a food processor, pulse the chiles, scallion, garlic, parsley and arugula together until finely chopped. While pulsing, add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and sugar and continue to pulse until the mixture is combined yet not completely puréed. Pour the salsa verde into a medium bowl, taste and adjust the salt if needed, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

2. Make the chicken: Set the chicken on a cutting board skin side up and rub each thigh with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, turn the thighs over and season the flesh side with the fennel powder (if using) and more salt and pepper. Lay one piece of prosciutto over two of the thighs and place the pieces of Taleggio in the center of each sheet of prosciutto. Fold the edges of the prosciutto over the cheese as needed to make sure it doesn’t hang over the sides of the chicken.

3. Place the remaining two chicken thighs flesh side down over the Taleggio and prosciutto-covered thighs (so you will have two chicken “sandwiches” with the skin facing out on both sides).

4. Set the two sandwiched chicken thighs in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Set an aluminum-foil-wrapped brick (or wrap the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot with a sheet of foil and then place a can or two of vegetables or beans inside it) on top of the chicken and turn the heat on to medium-high. Cook until the chicken starts to sizzle, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Remove the brick and flip the thighs over. Continue cooking until the second side is golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes more (the cheese will start to ooze out of the chicken and get crispy). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest for 5 minutes before slicing crosswise (against the grain) and serving with the salsa verde.


Batali’s Pollo al Mattone

I have always been a bit skittish at cooking fish on the grill until I came across Mario Batali’s Italian Grill. Now there are those who think I have “a thing” with Mario because we both wear orange crocs when grilling. Although I have never met the man, I do consider him one to be one of the great culinary maestro’s on the scene in New York City. Esca and Babbo are my two favorite NYC restaurants and Mario cooks as close to “real” Italian as any cook this side of the Atlantic.

My only complaints are that portions tend to be on the “large side” and, perhaps, some of his pasta dishes lack subtlety. These complaints are easily dismissed when one realizes that dishes can be shared and you need to excercise a little discretion at chosing the “right” dish for the proper season. For instance, I would never eat ravioli in the Spring or Summer no matter how good the oxtail and truffle stuffing might be.

While I had originally bought Batali’s Italian Grill for the surprising simple ways to grill fish, il galletto al mattone or “Chicken cooked under a brick” has proven to be a grill favorite at the May household. Preparation is relatively simple, but you do need a delectable spice that permeates much of the cooking in Tuscany and Umbria called fennel pollen (fennel seed doesn’t have near the intensity). Please follow the timing and grilling techniques suggested by Mario to have moist chicken that is crispy on the outside.

Batali’s Pollo al Mattone

Ingredients
2 young chickens (about three pounds each)
3 Tbs fennel pollen or ground toasted fennel seeds
1/4 cup of coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 Tbs freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation
With kitchen shears or a sharp knife cut down both sides of backbone of each chicken and remove it. With the chicken’s skin side up press down hard with palms to crack the breastbones and flatten them. Pat off excess fat and dry chickens with paper towel.

In a small bowel, mix together the fennel pollen, salt, pepper and thyme. Pat mixture of both sides of chicken coating them generously. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. Remove from fridge one hour before serving. (Editor’s note: Always wrap tightly, but if pressed for time allow chickens to season at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours although the delectable fennel taste will not be nearly as intense as in the recipe).

Wrap two bricks in aluminum foil and place on grill to heat throughly. Gently blot chickens dry and rub birds all over with the olive oil.

Move the hot bricks to the side of the grill (Langston, please make sure you use the oven mitts since the bricks tend to be hot). Oil the rack. Place the chickens skin side down on a line midway between the coals and no coals (i.e. indirect heat). Place a brick on each chicken. Cover grill (medium-high heat) and cook for 10 minutes. Flip chickens making sure that the skins to not tear and replace bricks on top. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove bricks turn the birds skin side down again and place on the hottest area of the grill and cook for another five minutes or until the thigh temperature reaches 165º.

Transfer chickens to platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.

Timing is extremely important in cooking Batali’s chicken to the right doneness. I have found Mario’s timing to be spot on for grilled chicken that is moist with a crispy skin.


Step 1: Place the salt blocks on a grill grate of a gas grill over low heat, close the lid, and warm for 10 minutes while you prepare the chicken. (If you get the book, see Read Before Heating!, page 25.) Turn the heat to medium and heat the block for 10 more minutes. Its surface should be about 375°F. (If you get the book, read Getting It Hot, page 24.) If you are using a charcoal fire, set up a bi-level fire with half the grill set up for low heat (one layer of coals) and the other half set up for medium heat (two layers of coals).

Step 2: Remove and discard the neck and package of innards from the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. With a large knife or poultry shears, cut down the length of the spine on both sides. Remove the spine. Cut the breast side of the chicken in half lengthwise. You will now have two chicken halves.

Step 3: Wash the halves in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat with the olive oil and rub all over with the cut sides of the garlic cloves afterward tuck the pieces of garlic under the edges of the skin. Season all over with the pepper.

Step 4: Clean the area of the grill grate not occupied by the salt block with a wire brush. Put the chicken halves, skin side down, on the grill grate and, using grill gloves or thick oven mitts, put a hot salt block on top of each half. Close the lid and cook until the chicken skin is crisp and deeply grill-marked, about 15 minutes.

Step 5: Remove the blocks using the grill gloves, flip the chicken halves with tongs, put the blocks back on top of the chicken, close the lid, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inside of the thicker thigh registers 170°F, 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 6: Remove the salt blocks, transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board, and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into it.

From Salt Block Cooking by Mark Bitterman (Andrews McMeel Publishing).


Chicken under a brick (Pollo al mattone)

Ingredients

You can cover your bricks with foil and roast a whole chicken in a cast iron skillet. The results are moist and delicious. Photo by Bill St. John.

1 whole, small to medium chicken, 3-4 pounds, the cavity trimmed of excess fat

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (not overly fruity or peppery), plus more for cooking

Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus another lemon in wedges for serving

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles, finely minced (or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed in the palm)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley for serving

Directions

Spatchcock the chicken: Rinse then pat dry the chicken and place it breast-side down on the cutting board, its neck turned away from you. With kitchen shears or a boning knife, cut along the backbone, tail to neck, tight along one side of the backbone, Repeat along the other side, discarding backbone. (If you wish, save the bone for making broth.)

Flip the bird over breast-side up and press down with both hands, as if performing CPR, until you hear the breastbone crack. Flatten the whole thing as best you can and place it on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper or in a non-reactive pan large enough to hold it but that also will fit in the refrigerator.

Make the marinade: In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, the juice and zest of the 1 lemon, the pepper flakes, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper.

Slather the marinade all over and under the spatchcocked chicken (even under some of the breast skin, if you like), cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. If you’re up in the middle of the night, turn it over and re-cover it. Before cooking, bring it out of the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To cook, heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy, oven-proof skillet large enough to hold the chicken flat (such as 12-inch cast iron or heavy aluminum), and over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil until it shimmers. Take the chicken and shake off any pieces of garlic or lemon peel from the marinade and add the chicken to the skillet, skin-side down. Quickly top the chicken with a heavy object(s) (hence the name chicken under a brick) — see important note below — the bottom of which is oiled or coated with cooking spray and that evenly presses down on as much of the surface of the chicken as possible. Cook this way for 5 minutes.

Place the pan, the chicken and its weights in the oven and roast the chicken for 25 minutes. Remove the pan, pull off the weights, flip the chicken skin-side up, then replace the weights and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a thermometer reads 150 degrees in the breast, or until the juices run clear at the thigh joint.

To serve: Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes on the cutting board. Carve the chicken into pieces, serving it with the pan juices, lemon wedges, and chopped parsley.

Several notes on cooking: You may choose not to marinate the chicken ahead of time that’s often done in Italy when grilling the bird over coals. In that case, go easy on the black pepper which will simply char bitterly. You may use another herb than rosemary (although it is the most traditional), such as twice as much parsley, or the same amount of sage or summer savory, or half as much thyme or oregano. Shallots may substitute for the garlic lime juice and zest or balsamic may sub for the lemon juice. Instead of olive oil, you may also use ghee or French-style clarified butter.

As for weights, many possibilities: Heavy housing bricks covered with a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil another cast iron or enameled iron pan, or a couple of small dumbbells or big rocks in a skillet. You may be lucky enough to own a true mattone or glazed clay weight made just for this purpose. Whatever you choose to use, it must be oven-proof (no encyclopedias). The weight(s) should add up to at least 10 pounds.

You also may cook the chicken on an open or flat grill surface, minding the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Or entirely atop the stove in the heavy skillet. In any application of heat, however or wherever, the recipe calls for weights on the chicken while it cooks.


Chicken Under A Brick Pollo Al Mattone Recipe

Schedule your weekly meals and get auto-generated shopping lists.

  • 1 small(31/2 lb) butterflied chicken,split
  • 2 Tbs fresh rosemary,rough chop
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 lemon,cut in wedges
  • 3-4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredients

  • 1 small(31/2 lb) butterflied chicken,split shopping list
  • 2 Tbs fresh rosemary,rough chop shopping list
  • 1 tsp kosher saltshopping list
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground peppershopping list
  • 1 lemon,cut in wedges shopping list
  • 3-4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oilshopping list

How to make it

  • Heat oven to 450. Season chicken on both sides with rosemary,salt and pepper.Squeeze 2 lemon wedges over flesh sides of chicken.
  • Heat 12" cast iron or heavy enameled ovenproof skillet over med high heat. When hot,add just enough oil to lightly film pan.. Put chicken in skin side down Immediately place a smaller skillet or 2 bricks wrapped in a couple of layers of foil on top of chicken. Turn heat to med. and cook(without moving chicken) until skin is deep golden brown(check with spatula),about 20 mins.
  • Remove bricks,slide thin spatula under each chicken half to loosen it from pan. Turn chicken skin side up. Place skillet in oven roaast 20 mins longer or till skin is crisp and golden and juices run clear when thigh is pierced. Cut chicken in quarters and serve with remaining lemon wedges.
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The Cook

The Rating

I saw a recipe like this quite a while ago and always wanted to give it a try but haven't gotten around to it. Even bought a brick! :) Thanks for posting this. I'll know where to find a recipe now. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has eve. more

I finally to around to this last night. It was really wonderful! The skin was really crispy and beautiful. I finely minced four cloves of garlic, some fresh thyme and rosemary and put it under the skin. I also lowered my oven temperature to 425. M. more


In a large shallow bowl, combine the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt. Coat each side of the chicken halves with the mixture, then place them directly on the grill and position the bricks on top of each half.

Grill carefully, watching and regulating the heat as necessary to avoid flare-ups. Remove the bricks using oven mitts. Use tongs to turn the chicken once to cook on the other side. Reposition the bricks on top of the chicken. When a fork easily pierces the chicken and the juices run clear, remove the bricks, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut it into pieces. Serve hot.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.


  • 1 masonry brick, covered in heavy-duty foil
  • 1 organic poulet chicken, backbone removed
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh organic sage, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic organic clove, minced
  • 1 organic lemon, zested
  • 1/4 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat grill for indirect heat. Chicken will take about 45 minutes. After removing backbone, butterfly chicken and press firmly to dislocate breastbone for better flatness.

Mix herbs with oil in a bowl and coat chicken. Set aside while grill is heating, 30 minutes is fine. When grill is hot and coals are set for indirect cooking, place chicken skin side down on grill. Place foil-covered brick or heavy skillet on top.

Cover grill and cook for about 20 minutes. Check temperature. While 150 degrees is the goal, the bird should not be there yet. Turn bird over and replace brick or skillet. Cover grill. Keep grill temperature about 400 degrees.

When internal chicken temperature reaches 150 degrees, remove bird, and let rest. The temperature will increase about 10 degrees while resting. Portion chicken and serve. Enjoy!