Chicken Under a Brick with Herb-Roasted Potatoes (Pollo al mattone)

Instead of two bricks and a rimmed baking sheet, I use a cast iron skillet weighed down with a second, larger cast iron skillet. There must be ample room around the outside of the first skillet for moisture to escape or you will merely boil the chicken. I have modified this recipe according to my own methods (after making it several times). I also don’t necessarily use a non-stick pan as the oil and schmaltz keep the chicken from sticking and I can pry it up with a spatula anyway. Non-stick pans do not promote much browning.


One large chicken serves 4 to 6.


  1 whole chicken, small (about 3 lbs), trimmed of excess fat, giblets removed and discarded, chicken rinsed and patted dry
  table salt and ground black pepper
  1 tsp high-temperature cooking oil
  2 tbsp olive oil
  3 cloves garlic, minced
  1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  so-called Italian herb seasoning
  2 tbsp lemon juice from 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges (optional)
  1½ lbs red potatoes small), scrubbed, dried, and cut into ¾ inch pieces
  other vegetables like carrots, kidney beans, and/or sugar snap peas in small quantity (optional)
  1 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves


1. Butterfly the chicken: With the breast side down and the tail of the chicken facing you, use poultry shears or a very sharp knife to cut along the length of one side of the backbone. With breast side still down, turn the neck end to face you, cut along the other side of the backbone and remove it. Turn the chicken breast-side up. Open the chicken on the work surface. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the chicken. Then turn over and remove the keel bone by excising it with small, sharp knife cutting along side the keel bone to part it from the meat. Excise the rib cage, wish bone, etc. as you wish. Cover with plastic wrap and pound it with the underside of a sauce pan to a fairly even thickness. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I don’t pound the chicken flat.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 450°. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a heavy-bottomed 12-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Swirl the skillet to coat evenly with oil. Place the chicken, skin-side down, in the hot pan and reduce the heat to medium. Place the cast iron skillet on the chicken and cook, checking after 15 minutes or so, until evenly browned, about 25 minutes. (After 20 minutes, the chicken should be fairly crisp and golden; if not, turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to cook until well browned.)

3. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 2 tbsp oil, garlic, 1½ tsp of the thyme, the pepper flakes, optional Italian seasoning, lemon juice, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Using tongs, carefully transfer the chicken, skin-side up, to a clean plate. Add the potatoes and other vegetables, sprinkling them with ¼ tsp salt, black pepper, and the remaining thyme. Place the chicken, skin-side up, on the potatoes and brush the skin with the reserved thyme-lemon juice mixture letting it drip into the vegetables.

5. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the thickest part of the breast registers 160° on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Return the skillet with the potatoes to the oven and roast until browned and cooked through, 10-20 minutes. If adding other vegetables, it may be wise to cover the skillet with a lid to avoid burning them.

7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, leaving the fat (schmaltz) behind. Toss the potatoes with the parsley. Cut the chicken into pieces. Serve the chicken and potatoes immediately with the lemon wedges.