Pollo al Mattone (Chicken Cooked Under Bricks)

Pollo al Mattone (Chicken Cooked Under Bricks)

``This is the dish that inspired this book,'' writes Patricia Wells in ``Trattoria.'' ``On a trip to Italy some years ago, I sampled this delicious, crispy-skinned chicken at a popular Tuscan trattoria named Da Giulio, in Lucca. I loved it so, I had to have the recipe, and, almost like a sleep-walker, I found myself in the kitchen, pen and notebook in hand.

``The weights are not just a gadget or gimmick, but actually help the chicken cook more evenly and make for a very pleasantly crispy but not fatty crust, for all the fat is pressed out of the chicken.''

1 roasting chicken, about 4 lbs.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Split chicken in half lengthwise along the backbone and between breasts, with poultry shears. Open the bird flat, and press down with the heel of your hand or wooden mallet to flatten completely. With chicken skin-side up, make slits in skin near the tail and tuck wings in securely.

In a 12-inch skillet, large enough to hold chicken flat, heat oil over moderately high heat. When hot but not smoking, add chicken skin-side down. Weight chicken with 10 pounds of bricks or heavy stones wrapped in foil, or put a flat lid or smaller skillet over chicken and then add weights.

Cook over medium-high heat until skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Regulate heat as bird cooks to be sure it doesn't burn and so it will cook evenly but not too quickly. Remove weights after 12 minutes of cooking on one side; turn chicken and season generously with salt and pepper. Replace weights, and cook 12 minutes more.

Test for doneness by piercing with a skewer. Bird is done when juices run clear. After cooking cover loosely with foil, and let it rest from 10 to 30 minutes or keep in warm oven. Carve and arrange on a warmed platter. Serves 4 to 6.

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