no napkins allowed
Here’s the truth: I hate chicken breasts. Really, tell me, why do they exist? They’re as flavorless as they are ubiquitous. But one day, I experienced chicken breasts anew. I was helping host a culinary tour of LA that included a prix-fix lunch at Campanile. (Scarlett Johansson was dining in the back, and yes, she’s as beautiful in person as one would hope, an aphrodisiac incarnate for both genders.) Our large group had two choices — a chicken breast or something else equally uninteresting. I chose the chicken, expecting something way less than stellar. Oh me of little faith! Glory be to God! That was the best chicken to ever pass my lips. And it was breast meat, no less! If you don’t have the time or money to get hot-and-bothered in person at Campanile for their Crisp Flattened Chicken with Beurre Fondue or any other divine thing on their menu, here’s my humble rendition of Chicken Under a Brick, simplified for us non-LA folk.
- 1 brick
- 2 chicken breasts, with skin, or 2 chicken thigh-leg pieces, with skin
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Find a brick from your garden or garage. Brush off any critters. Wrap the brick well in aluminum foil.
- Set a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
- While the skillet is heating, rinse the chicken and pat very dry. Set the chicken pieces on a clean work surface and push back the skin, but do not remove. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Place the garlic slivers and most of the chopped rosemary on the meat, and then pull the skin back down to cover the meat. Drizzle the skin with the olive oil and rub to distribute evenly. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with the remaining rosemary.
- When the skillet is warmed through — but not so hot as to burn the skin quickly — place the chicken, skin-side down, in the pan and top with the brick or another heavy skillet. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, until the skin is a glorious, crispy treat, and then turn to finish cooking. (Once the chicken is flipped, you do not have to top it with the brick, though you may.) Continue cooking until a thermometer registers 165 degrees and the juices run clear. If the skin is cooking too fast, finish the chicken off in a 350 degree oven until safely cooked through. Serve with risotto or mashed potatoes and a crisp green salad.