Weighing down a splayed chicken with bricks seems so ancient. Did a Roman Emperor hatch the slogan “A Chicken Under Every Brick” to go along with the Bread and Circuses motif? Brick morphed so naturally from the good earth. Add water and high heat—ecco fatto, it’s done—terracotta. And civilization starts to build in a big way. Any brick will do here. If you have a few handy, wash them, let them air-dry, and wrap them in aluminum foil. Or use a heavy pan of some sort, covering the bottom with foil.
Almost as easy as roast chicken, this has Tuscan flair and deep roots in the cuisine’s history. Our Tuscan friends don’t marinate the chicken, but the chicken is more succulent after its overnight immersion. Rosemary potatoes go perfectly with this.
1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
zest from 1 orange
1/4cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup white wine
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Wash the chicken under cold running water and dry it. With poultry shears, remove the wingtips and any excess fat, and cut out the backbone. Put those aside for stock.
3. Combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl with the zest, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Lay the chicken flat, skin side up, on your work surface. Stuff the garlic mixture under the skin and place the chicken in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or, even better, overnight. Turn it two or three times.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heatproof cast-iron pan large enough to hold the chicken. I use a 14-inch cast-iron skillet. Place the chicken breast side up and weight it down with two clean bricks wrapped in foil. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, and then place the pan and bricks in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and turn the chicken over, cooking another 20 minutes or so, until crispy and richly browned, about 50 minutes total. Remove the chicken to a platter and cut into serving pieces. Deglaze the pan with the wine and pour the juices over the chicken.
Excerpted from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Copyright © 2012 by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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