Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pollo al Mattone

Pollo al Mattone is Italian for Chicken Under Bricks. Do you like chicken seasoned with a lemon and garlic flavored interior and super crispy (almost crusty) skin? Can you handle a big mess in the kitchen? I'm all over the first question but I'm definitely not in favor of cleaning half the surfaces in the kitchen. This bird is getting cooked outside.

I prefer to cook outside as much as possible. This is a year round preference for me as I have the typical indoor/office bound job and I'm an outdoors kinda guy. In the summer, cooking indoors just seems dumb, so for much of the warmest season I tend to give my iron a bit of a rest and cook with one of my other favorite mediums, fire. Fire and smoke to be precise.

Today seemed like a cast iron day. The temps are in the lower eighties and I've already taken the dogs on a 5 mile walk, cleaned the kitchen, worked on an old Lodge Chicken Fryer (you'll see it soon), and fixed a computer problem so it was time for a decent lunch. I had planned on eating the Pollo al Mattone for dinner but after a busy morning I felt like a big lunch and a small dinner.
Marinate a spatchcocked chicken (spine and keel-bone removed) overnight in the following:
Olive oil - 1 cup extra virgin
Fresh Rosemary - 2 TBsp.
Fresh Thyme - 2 TBsp.
Garlic - 4 to 6 cloves smashed and roughly chopped
Chile flakes - to taste
Lemon juice - 1 whole lemon's worth
Salt & Pepper - to taste

One of the better purchases I made years ago was an outdoor propane burner. I use it mostly to light my charcoal chimney starters but it gets hauled out regularly for fire-roasting chiles, frying chicken and fish, stir frying in the wok (it has enough horsepower to really get the wok rocking and rolling). Today the burner was pressed into service for the Pollo al Mattone.
A BIG skillet is needed for this. I used a 100 year old Griswold #12 that was perfect for the 4 pound chicken. Once you add the bricks or other weight the chicken really spreads out.
When the pan is heated put the chicken skin side down into the dry skillet.
A lid from a # 10 Camp Dutch Oven provides a nice base and some steaming. I wanted this bird to be squished into the pan. More iron was called for.
A # 12 shallow and the # 10 that goes with the lid help to compress the yardbird.

What? There are no bricks? Who cares! There's at least 25+ pounds of cast iron squashing the bejeezuss out of that bird....

My outdoor burner has no settings like Low - Medium - High but I would say based on the sound of the chicken cooking that a Medium Low heat is needed. Too high and you'll scorch the exterior.

I cooked mine 25 minutes skin side down and 20 minutes on the other side. The wind, outdoor temperature, heat from your burner can all vary so stick around and watch everything. One great benefit of this method is the dark and white meat are finished at the same time and both will be juicy and damn good.

This technique is so common on the Net that even SATAN has a version.


Kim said...

Wow, that looks awesome. I just learned how to do that chicken butterflying thing, so I'll have to give this a whirl.

Greg said...

Thank you Kim.

By the way, the leftovers are great cold. Something else in its favor.

Chilebrown said...

The stack of Black Iron is pure poetry!

Our kitty is getting bolder by the hour. Our two big 90 pound pussy retrievers are scared but slowly coming around.

YOu got other animals to adapt to your psychotic lab puppie. He sure is a cutie!

Amy Sherman said...

A similar recipe was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit this month.

Greg said...

Amy - Thanks for the heads up. I'll look for it.

Greg said...

This version that Amy mentioned has a similar recipe but they brown the chicken over medium high heat and then bake it.

I prefer the way I did it (avoiding the oven) which is they way I learned to do it back in my line cook days.

Their way is probably less messy.

Witkowski Family said...

I stumbled across your blog and fell in love. I've been lusting after my father's 50 year old+ cast iron skillet for years and finally convinced him that it needs to come live at my house-this is going to be the *first* thing I make in it and I'm so excited! Keep up the great work!

Greg said...

Witkowski Family - Thanks!

Hope the old skillet treats you well.