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Tuscan Grilled Chicken Under a Brick

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Serves 4

  • by Steven Raichlen from Fine Cooking
    Issue 117

Both the Tuscans and the Romans claim to have invented the method for grilling chicken under a brick to keep it juicy and crisp. Although this technique, called pollo al mattone, is traditionally used with a spatchcocked whole chicken, it's also great for chicken breasts, which are notorious for drying out when exposed to the high heat of the grill. The weight of the brick presses the meat into the grill for faster, more even cooking, excellent crisping, and gorgeous grill marks. It also works as a cover for the meat, keeping it moist. In Italy, pollo al mattone is often cooked over a wood fire; this recipe recreates a bit of that smokiness by adding wood chips to the grill.

  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 Tbs. fresh sage
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 8-oz. bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1 medium lemon, sliced into 4 wedges for garnish

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, sage, rosemary, pepper flakes, 1-1/2 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper until finely chopped.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Lightly brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season each breast with 1 tsp. of the herbed salt. Let stand at room temperature while preparing the grill.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct grilling over medium heat (350°F). Wrap four bricks in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

If using a charcoal grill, sprinkle 1 cup of unsoaked wood chips (preferably oak) over the coals. Replace the grill grate. If using a gas grill, use two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to make a V-shaped packet to hold the wood chips. Set the foil packet between two burners and add the chips to the foil packet. Replace the grill grate.

Clean the grate with a wire brush and, using tongs, wipe the grate with a paper towel or cloth dipped in oil.

Arrange the breasts skin side down on the grill on a diagonal to the grate. Put a brick on top of each chicken breast. Grill (covered if using a gas grill) until the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. If flare-ups occur, move the chicken to a different part of the grill.

Using grill mitts or tongs, remove the bricks, flip the chicken over, and replace the bricks. Continue to grill (covered if using a gas grill) until an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thick part of a breast reads 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter or plates and drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve with the lemon wedges and the remaining herb salt on the side.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Grilled Baby Eggplant & Plum Tomatoes with Fresh Basil.
 

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 270; Fat (g): 10; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): 3; Protein (g): 40; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4; Carbohydrates (g): 2; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 1350; Cholesterol (mg): 110; Fiber (g): 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

It's a good recipe but it does leave out the important step of pre-heating the foil covered bricks! This can be done in the oven or on the grill if you have the time and coals (or gas). This takes care of any cross contamination from uncooked chicken and also adds to both the crispiness and rapid cooking time.

It sounds delicious and I will be making it. One thing I noticed.... the brick is sitting on raw chicken, and you flip the breasts and put the "contaminated" brick on the cooked side. Or are you supposed to flip the brick over too?

This is incredibly juicy, flavorful chicken that's easy to make. It has become one of our favorites.

Tried this on a whole chicken cut in half. Wonderful flavor. I put bricks on both halves and had trouble keeping them from sliding off the chicken, other than that it was a great recipe. You do have to keep an eye on the chicken as it cooks because it burns easily. Trying it tonight with skinless, boneless chicken breast kabobs. Adding thyme to the salt mixture as an experiment.

Amazing recipe!! I added lemon zest to my salt mixture, covered it and let it sit overnight - more because of a change in dinner plans - and it turned out absolutely delicious! This will definitely be my summer chicken dish!

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