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Cooking

Recipes for grilled chicken, Italian style

Two techniques for the great outdoors: cooking under a brick and in mixed kebabs.

Grilled, butterflied chicken is flavored with garlic and lemon.

Photographs by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Grilled, butterflied chicken is flavored with garlic and lemon.

ITALIAN-STYLE CHICKEN GRILLED UNDER A BRICK

(Pollo al Mattone)

Serves 4

Butterflying the chicken and flattening it under a weight encourages quick cooking. I use a large cast-iron skillet, but a baking sheet or other flat pan with 2 bricks also works. If you’re grilling over a charcoal fire, use briquettes, not lump hardwood charcoal, for steadier, gentler heat.

1 whole chicken, 3½ to 4 pounds, rinsed

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons sugar

1 large head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and roughly chopped

Vegetable oil, for the grill

Lemon wedges, for serving

Place the chicken on a cutting board breast down and with the tail facing you. With poultry shears, cut along a side of the backbone down its entire length. Rotate the chicken 180 degrees so the tail points away from you and cut along the other side of the backbone and remove it. Trim excess fat from the chicken, turn it breast side up, place the palm of your hand on the breastbone and push down hard to crack the bone.

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In a large bowl, mix cup salt, sugar, the garlic, and 6 cups water, stirring to fully dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the chicken, submerge, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove the chicken from the liquid, rinse under running water, dry well with paper towels, and sprinkle generously with pepper.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust burners as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 350 degrees.) Using tongs and a wad of paper towels, oil the grill grates generously. Place the chicken skin side down directly over the heat, set the weight right on the chicken, cover if using a gas grill, and grill, without moving (except in the case of large flare-ups), until the skin is well browned and grill-marked, 12 to 18 minutes. Turn the chicken over, replace the weights and cover (if necessary), and continue grilling until the breasts reach an internal temperature of about 160 degrees and the thighs reach 170 to 175 degrees, 12 to 18 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a platter and rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and serve hot, with lemon wedges.

Variation 

CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA GRILLED UNDER A BRICK

Saltimbocca dishes are flavored with prosciutto and sage. To compensate for the salty prosciutto, the chicken brines for just 1 hour.

Follow the directions for Italian-Style Chicken Grilled Under a Brick, making the following changes:

1) Reduce the chicken’s brining time to 1 hour.

2) After brining, rinsing, and drying the chicken, use your fingers to gently loosen the skin from breasts, legs, and thighs (do not tear or detach fully). Have on hand 12 generous slices prosciutto (about 5 ounces) and about 20 whole fresh sage leaves. Working with 2 slices of prosciutto at a time (place one over the other to make it double-thick), shimmy the prosciutto under the chicken skin to cover the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks. Shimmy in the sage leaves under the skin and prosciutto, distributing them evenly all over the chicken. Proceed with the recipe.

jim scherer

TIP Use a cast-iron pan as a weight on the grill.

ROSEMARY-CHILI CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE KEBABS

Makes 12 kebabs, serves 6

Fully cooked chicken sausage is best for the kebabs. You’ll need 24 10-inch skewers. Make sure that the pieces on the skewers are not mashed tightly against each other, so they will cook evenly.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1½ tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

6 medium garlic cloves, minced

Salt and black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 medium), trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1½-inch squares

1 pound cremini mushrooms

1½ pounds fully cooked spicy chicken sausages, cut into 1½-inch pieces

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, rosemary, red pepper, lemon zest, garlic, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon black pepper to blend. Add the chicken thighs, toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust burners to maintain grill temperature around 400 degrees.) Meanwhile, add the bell pepper pieces, mushrooms, and ¾ teaspoon salt to the chicken and toss to coat. To keep food from spinning on skewers, thread onto 2 at once. Stand 2 10-inch skewers side by side, ½ inch apart. Add alternating pieces of chicken, peppers, mushrooms, and sausage, making sure that the pieces are not mashed tightly against each other; repeat with the remaining chicken, vegetables, and sausage.

Grill the kebabs (covered if using a gas grill), turning every 4 minutes, until the peppers and mushrooms are tender and grill-marked, and the chicken is well browned and cooked through (170 to 175 degrees), 15 to 20 minutes. Remove kebabs from the grill, rest for about 3 minutes, and serve.

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