Italians like to cook chicken under a brick -- a real brick, though often wrapped less evocatively in foil -- to get extra crisp skin. When I worked at Albergo del Sole in Lombardy, and an order would come in for the brick chicken, my job was to run to the garden to clip some rosemary and get it in the pan with the chicken and some oil. The moments-from-harvest rosemary and the chicken pressed against the pan by the hefty brick made for a rewarding dinner.
For the cook, it's equally rewarding -- with the chicken turned skin-side-down in the pan for most of the cooking, you have to tinker with the heat so the skin browns and crisps just as the chicken finishes cooking through. Too much peeking and the brick won't get a chance to work its magic. You have to trust your instincts. Don't expect to get it right the first time around. Perfecting this is the fun part. - Amanda —Amanda Hesser
2 to 4
chicken thighs and drumsticks, still attached
sprigs marjoram, thyme, or rosemary
garlic clove, smashed, skin left on
rose or white wine
peppadew or other small pickled, slightly spicy peppers, thinly sliced
An hour before cooking, season the chicken on all sides with salt. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Pat the chicken dry. Place a medium cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, add the oil. Then the herbs, garlic clove, and chicken pieces, skin-side down.
Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the chicken with oil. Lay a piece of foil on top of the chicken, then weigh it down with a large, heavy sauté pan. Let the chicken cook for 20 to 30 minutes, checking every couple of minutes to make sure it’s browning steadily and evenly. You want the chicken to cook through just as the skin turns a nice hazelnut brown. When the chicken reaches this color, carefully turn the pieces over, making sure you don’t tear the lovely crisp skin you’ve just worked so hard on. Crisp the other side just until the chicken is cooked through, 2 to 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a plate. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan and bring to a boil. Scrape up any sticky bits. Discard the herbs. Pour this mixture into the saute pan you used as a weight. Add the rose. Bring to a boil and reduce by half (or more, if desired). Season to taste with lemon juice and salt. Stir in the peppers. Spoon the sauce onto a serving dish (or into the cast-iron skillet) and top with the chicken.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.