Pollo al mattone
(Tuscan-Style Chicken Under a Brick)
3 garlic cloves
2 T. stemmed fresh rosemary leaves
2 T. stemmed fresh sage leaves
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ c. coarse salt (Kosher or sea)
4 whole baby chickens, poussins, or game hens (each 1 – 1 ¼ lbs.)
OR 2 whole chickens (each 3 ½ - 4 lbs.)
About ½ c. best quality extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
2 lemons, cut into wedges for serving
Rosemary branches and sage leaves for garnish, optional
2-4 bricks wrapped in aluminum foil, or metal grill presses
Place the garlic, rosemary, sage, and pepper in a food processor and run the machine in short bursts to finely chop. Add the salt and process to mix. Transfer the rub to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. This makes about ¾ c. herbed salt rub, more that you’ll need for this recipe. Leftover rub is excellent to use when grilling other meats.
Remove and discard the fat just inside the neck and body cavities of the chickens. Rinse inside and out and pat dry. Spatchcock the chickens (see instructions below). Generously season the birds on both sides with the herbed salt.
To grill: The direct grilling method is traditional, but using the indirect method produces a crisp, moist bird without the risks of flare-ups or burning.
The direct method: Set up the grill for direct grilling (the chickens will be placed directly over the coals) and prepare/preheat the coals to medium. Leave one section of the grill bare for a safety zone. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the birds skin side down on the hot grate at a diagonal to the bars. Place the bricks or grill presses on top of the birds.
Grill the chickens until they are crisp and golden brown on the bottom, 8-12 minutes per side for the small birds, 12-20 for full-size chickens. Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness, inserting it into the thickest part of the thigh without touching a bone. The internal temperature should be about 170ºF. Give each bird a quarter turn after four minutes on each side to create handsome crosshatch grill marks.
The indirect method: Set up the grill for indirect grilling (The coals should be pushed to the sides of the grill, leaving the center empty.) Place a drip pan in the center and prepare/preheat the coals to medium. Arrange the birds skin-side up in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat and place the weights on top. Cover the grill and cook until golden brown and cooked through, turning once, 30-40 minutes for small birds and 40 minutes-1 hour for full-size chickens.
Serve generously drizzled with olive oil and garnished with lemon wedges and rosemary branches and sage leaves if desired.
To Spatchcock a Chicken:
Turn the chicken breast-side down. Using poultry shears, sturdy kitchen scissors, or a sharp knife and starting at the neck end, make two lengthwise cuts along the backbone, one on each side, from the neck to the tail.
Cut out the backbone and save it for making stock, or discard.
Open the chicken up like a book. Run the tip of a paring knife along the breastbone and cartilage below the breastbone.
Run your thumbs along both sides of the breastbone and white cartilage, then pull them out.
Using a paring knife, cut a 1-inch slit in the skin between each leg and the back end (bottom) of the breast.
Insert the knob end of each drumstick through the hole closest to it, so that the chicken lays flat.
Tuck the wingtips behind the wings or cut them off and add them to the backbone for stock.