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Chicken Cooked Under a Press

Chicken Cooked Under a Press
Weighted with a press, this chicken cooks evenly and emerges with extra-crisp skin. This technique for preparing chicken originated in Tuscany, where it is called pollo al mattone (mattone means "brick").

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, about 3 lb.
  • 5 Tbs. Tuscan grilling paste
  • 3 Tbs. plus 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

On a cutting surface, lay the chicken on its back. Separate the breast into halves by cutting down the center of the breastbone. Turn the chicken over, flatten and, using the heel of your hand, crack the backbone. Remove the wings at the second joint. Make small slits on either side of the breast tips, then insert the ends of the drumsticks into each opening. Spread the grilling paste over the chicken, coat with the 3 Tbs. olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, turning the chicken twice.

Cover the base of the mattone chicken press with the press and set over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the press, pour the 1⁄4 cup oil into the base, cover and heat for 2 minutes more. Remove the chicken from the marinade and lay it, skin side down, in the base. Cover with the press and cook until the skin is evenly golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the skin does not brown too quickly; if it does, reduce the heat. Remove the press and carefully turn the chicken over. Cover and continue cooking until the chicken is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 to 25 minutes more. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, should register 170°F. Remove the press, carefully turn the chicken over and cook until the skin is crisp, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cut into serving pieces and divide among warmed individual plates.
Serves 2 to 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Tuscany, by Lori De Mori (Time-Life Books, 2001).