It was the chicken. Under a brick. With the potatoes.October 28, 2006
Chicken under a brick doesn’t sound glamorous, does it? In fact, it may not even sound appetizing. The idea of a bit of poultry stewing under some sandy building implement doesn’t get the saliva flowing. That is, unless you’ve actually had chicken under a brick. In which case, you’re willing to knock down old women and children to cut a path to the serving station – fork in hand and plate outstretched.
Chicken under a brick – or geek chicken, as my husband fondly calls it – is a delicious, flavorful and moist roasted bird. But that’s only the half of it. In addition to beautiful and juicy meat, housed in a herb-incrusted and crispy skin, are wondrous, aromatic and deliciously decadent roasted potatoes. That’s correct, they come right with the recipe! The potatoes cook right under that bird, soaking up the fatty goodness that drips down into the pan and melding with the tangy thyme seasoning mix the potatoes are lovingly tossed in. It’s magical, folks.
The best part is, my husband can be easily persuaded to make this recipe because it’s so darn easy. You don’t even need a brick – my husband uses a pan weighed down with 32 oz cans of whole tomatoes. Genius, I tell you. So read on for the recipe, and eat on for satisfaction!
In the world of food media, there is perhaps no greater anti-hero than Cook’s Illustrated and its associated PBS show, America’s Test Kitchen. It has no bright, beautiful photos, no fancy camera stories, no insights into the hip. It’s just about home cooking and making good food. It’s for that reason that I love it. While I love knowing the place to eat, the new flavors that are taking flight, or the interesting science, the Cook’s Illustrated folks get that it’s really about bringing some skills and experience into the kitchen and making something tasty.
This recipe is an adaptation of one from their show. I’ve taken their technique and adapted it to a larger bird and added a few of my own flavors to the dish. It’s a frequent visitor to our table because it has a great pay off without too much work. You get both a great protein with an awesome side.
The side of potatoes is made magical by the schmaltz rendered while the chicken cooks. Schmaltz is a Yiddish term for rendered chicken fat, which is popular in Jewish cuisine. The schmaltz combined with the thyme seasoning makes this a favorite with my potato-loving wife. I hope you enjoy as well.
Chicken Under a Brick with Fingerling Potatoes
4 lbs. chicken (whole bird)
1 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes (red or Yukon gold also work well here)
1 tbsp. vegetable/canola oil
Thyme Seasoning Mix
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. fresh thyme (just leaves)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Butterfly the chicken
1. Remove the backbone of the bird to allow the breast and legs to lie flat. Do this by flipping the bird on its breast; you should see the small nub that is the tail. Cut along both sides of the backbone/tail using a set of kitchen shears or a very sharp knife.
(NOTE: Save the backbone. I have a bag of these and other chicken bones I keep in the freezer. When I get enough of them, I use them to make stock.)
2. Turn the chicken over and pull its wings toward you. You should here a crack. Once it can lay relatively flat, press gently down on it until it can now lay entirely flat. Once again, more cracking should be expected.
Chicken pounding as stress relief
3. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the chicken. Give it a few short, swift strokes with a heavy pan or other large, flat object. The goal here is to increase the flat surface area on the chicken.
Crisping the skin
4. In a large pan over medium heat, place about 1 tbsp. of canola/vegetable oil. Let it heat until lightly shimmering.
5. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Take a heavy object, such as another pot weighed down with some cans, and place it on top of the bird. By doing this, you are trying to ensure that as much of the chicken’s skin as possible is in contact with the surface of pan. This creates the crispy crust that makes this dish a winner. Cook in this position for 20 min.
(NOTE: There will be a lot of sizzling and popping. Just make sure the chicken is over medium heat and you should be fine. It seems like a long time, but it won’t burn — and you’ll be rewarded later.)
6. While the chicken is cooking, make the thyme seasoning mix and chop the potatoes into small, bite-sized pieces. There is no need to peel them. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.
7. Remove the chicken from the heat and pour off the fat from the pan. Take about two-thirds of the thyme seasoning and stir in with the potatoes and place them in the pan. Place the chicken breast/skin side up and coat with the remaining seasoning. Place in the oven for 30-45 min or until the internal temperature of the thigh reads 160F-165F degrees.
8. Once the chicken is at the proper temperature, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest. A good deal of moisture has collected in the pan and helped to cook the potatoes. Drain as much of this liquid as possible without losing your potatoes.
9. Turn on your broiler. Place the potato-filled pan under your broiler for about 3 min. Stir, and return to the broiler for another 3 min. You want them nice and golden brown; if you need less or more time, adjust.
10. Serve the potatoes along with a quarter of the chicken. Enjoy!