This dish is known in Italy as “pollo sotto il mattone”. It’s a great technique for getting the maximum amount of crispness and grilled flavor from a chicken. It works best with smaller chickens (under 3 lbs) or–better yet–cornish hens or poussins.
It takes a bit of advance preparation, and preferably a little marinating or brining. I like to rub heavily with salt and pepper, as well as a combination of herbs, such as sage and rosemary, and a little lemon zest and juice.
Before preparing the herbs and spices, remove the backbone from the chicken by cutting a slit up both sides of the backbone with poultry shears, while pulling up on the bone. When you get to the top of the bone, you will feel a snap and be able to pull it out in one piece.
Next, open the chicken and turn it over breast side up. You should be able to flatten it out by pressing down ont the breast. Next, prepare the marinade–in a large baking dish, combine sage, rosemary, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
Rub the flattened chicken all over (including under the skin) with the herb/oil mixture.
The chicken should rest in the fridge for 4 – 8 hours until ready to grill. When ready to grill, remove from fridge for a half-hour to allow it to come to room temperature.
When ready to grill, you’ll need about an hour of grilling time from start to finish. I always like potatoes and a salad with grilled chicken, so tonight we’re having skillet potatoes and a spinach salad. I could eat this meal a couple of times a week!
Chicken Under a Brick
2 3-lb chickens or 4 poussins or cornish hens, backbone removed and flattened
4 tbls salt
3 tbls black pepper
1 tsp chili flakes
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbls olive oil
2 tbls chopped fresh sage
2 tbls chopped fresh rosemary
Rub chicken with herb and lemon mixture and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours (up to 8).
Preheat grill and place flattened chickens, skin side up, over high heat. Place a foil-wrapped brick on top of each chicken and turn heat to medium. Cover grill and allow to grill undisturbed for 25 minutes. Check on them every few minutes to make sure there are no flareups–if there are flareups, quickly squirt with some water to extinguish.
Turn chickens with 2 spatulas and grill on the other side, undisturbed for about 30 more minutes. At this time, lift the chickens gently with a spatula–if they are not crisp enough, turn the heat to high and let them grill for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.