For the past 20 or so years, I've been getting together for a holiday lunch in NYC with my two long-time friends, Gwen and Karen. We sometimes try an of-the-moment restaurant, or we revisit old favorites. One such fave is the intimate Sfoglia on the Upper East Side, where we always order at least one serving of Chicken Under a Brick (or Chicken Al Mattone, as it's called in Italy). It is so delicious, that the last time we had lunch at Sfoglia and dined on the dish, I came home, searched for the recipe, ran to the market and recreated it the very same night!! (I do that a lot when I really love something.) As I knew it would be, it was an instant hit with the entire family. Catherine calls it her top meal of choice, and Stephan requested it for his Father's Day dinner this past weekend. It's a messy and hot process, and I typically won't make it on a steamy, humid night . But, it was Father's Day!
Note: The recipe below is a combination of one the NYT published for Sfoglia's Chicken Under a Brick and another I found somewhere on the Internet long ago.
- 1 whole 3- to 4-pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, dried and split, backbone removed (I've also use 2 split chicken breasts instead of whole chicken)
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 pressed garlic cloves (I use 4-6)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, optional
- Juice of a lemon (I use at least two lemons as it yields a lot more sauce for soaking up with the chicken)
- Salt & pepper
- 2 foil-wrapped bricks (of course, make sure they're clean!)
- Mix 2 tbsps. of olive oil, juice of one lemon, chopped rosemary and garlic cloves in a bowl and mix well.
- Once you've cleaned chicken as describe above, add salt and pepper and pour sauce over it making sure to thoroughly cover all of the chicken. Marinate for up to 24 hours. If you've only got an hour, that will boost the flavor, as well.
- When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Preheat an ovenproof skillet (I find a cast-iron skillet works best) over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Press rosemary sprigs, if using, into the skin side of the chicken. Add remaining olive oil to the pan and wait about 30 seconds for it to heat up.
- Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down, weighted with foil-wrapped bricks (or another heavy skillet). The idea is to flatten the chicken by applying weight evenly over its surface.
- Cook over medium-high to high heat for about 5 minutes (or until the skin is golden brown), then transfer to the oven. (You might want to remove the bricks before you move the pan and then add them once you've placed it in the oven.) Roast for 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and remove the weights; turn the chicken over (it will now be skin side up), add the bricks and roast 10 minutes more, or until done (large chickens may take an additional 5 minutes or so). I find the perfect temperature is between 160-165°.
- Serve hot or at room temperature, and pour additional lemon juice over the chicken before serving. We soak up every last bit of the lemony juice with the chicken itself or some hot, crusty bread.