With the cool, dry days of the past month, we were well into thoughts of roast chicken and warming harvest soups. But wait! There’s more.
Summer’s back this week (and actually, to be precise, will be around for another three). The heat and humidity are returning, and we are not retiring the grill quite yet.
Pollo al mattone, chicken under a brick, comes from the Italians. Remove the backbone (or ask the butcher to do it), flatten the chicken, and weight it on the grill with bricks or a heavy cast-iron pan. The result is a shorter cooking time, crispy skin, and juicy meat. Because the temperature of a charcoal grill is harder to control than that of a gas grill, adjust the time as necessary and use a thermometer. If the coals are too hot and the skin starts to burn, rake them to one side and set the chicken on the other side away from direct heat.
Grilled chicken under a brick with oranges and saffron (Serves 4)
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons hot water
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. In a small bowl, crumble the saffron threads. Cover with hot water and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the orange rind, orange juice, lime juice, ginger, olive oil, honey, and salt.
1 (4-pound) chicken. preferably organic
Freshly ground black pepper
Oil for the grill
1. With kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Save for stock. Turn the chicken over and press firmly on the breastbone to flatten it. Pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. In a gallon-size zipper bag, place the chicken. Add the marinade and close the bag. Tip the bag back and forth to distribute the marinade. Set on a plate and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
3. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill at medium heat (350 degrees.) Wrap 2 bricks with aluminum foil. With tongs, wipe the grill grates with a small folded piece of paper towel dipped in oil.
5. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Set it on the grill with the skin side down and weight each half with the bricks. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove the bricks.
6. With grill mitts or tongs, turn the chicken over and replace the bricks. Cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees.
7. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut into serving pieces.