Cast Iron

Chicken Under a Brick with Pickled Peppers

June 17, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 2 chicken thighs and drumsticks, still attached
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sprigs marjoram, thyme, or rosemary
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed, skin left on
  • 1/4 cup rose or white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 5 peppadew or other small pickled, slightly spicy peppers, thinly sliced
  1. An hour before cooking, season the chicken on all sides with salt. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • bergman
  • Adelucchi
  • lschrive
  • WoooPigSooie
  • Rivka
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

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.

28 Reviews

sue L. September 13, 2016
Just "dug out" a beautiful blond brick I haven't used in years, scrubbed it thoroughly, and wrapped it in two sheets of heavy-duty foil--so I'm ready to roll! My own "tweaks" here are a spatchcocked (love the word!) poussin & some fresh tarragon--will be passing on the pan sauce, etc., but my sides'll be steamed asparagus & orzo. Am ravenous as I type!
mklug March 18, 2014
Is the garlic going to burn and get all yicky?
Amanda H. March 18, 2014
It shouldn't but if it begins to brown a lot, just remove it from the pan.
mklug March 18, 2014
Awesome! I didn't think so, because I always trust your recipes and get great results every time, but I thought I'd double-check. Thank you, Amanda!!
Amanda H. March 18, 2014
Happy to help, and hope all goes well -- keep me posted!
mklug March 19, 2014
Ok, so I used a sauté pan for the cooking (all of it). Our cast iron skillet was too small. It worked out great--the only way I strayed from the recipe was to double the peppers and add some olives. Next time (and there will be a next time, because we loved it and it seemed like such a glamorous yet simple dinner) I will work on coming to terms with my co-terrors of undercooked chicken v. horribly burned chicken--I turned the heat way down at the beginning because it seemed to all be happening too fast but then spent the next 40 minutes slowly inching it back up. Moral of story: be not afraid of those first few minutes of heat! Also, the herbs ended up under the chicken and thus melded into the skin, but that didn't bother us at all.

And as promised, the garlic didn't burn!
Karen T. March 9, 2014
If I have a heavy. large csat iron press to use instead of the sauté pan to put on top of the chicken, would it be okay to do the sauce totally in the cast iron skillet or is it bad to have the wine and lemon juice in it? Do you think I would then need to re-season the pan again if I did?
Amanda H. March 9, 2014
It's more that the sauce will turn "muddy" than it will ruin your pan. Do you have a good stainless steel skillet? If so, why don't you use it -- then neither of us will worry!
bergman February 20, 2014
This recipe was a total hit! I made it for date night in. I sautéed red bell peppers in lieu of using pickled/spicy peppers, and it worked out well.
Amanda H. February 22, 2014
So glad!
Rifkin2 February 13, 2014
This recipe was phenomenal!!!!! The only chicken dish i ever want to make. I ended up using mixed olives instead of the peppers and it worked great! My only suggestion is that when you are done cooking the chicken, BEFORE you pour the water in, pour off most of the excess fat (i had a decent amount). Otherwise you will end up with an oily sauce
Adelucchi February 15, 2013
Made this last night for friends celebrating Valentine's Day. A huge hit!! I used boneless skinless chicken thights because bone in and skin did not come in organic. They were excellent. Here's some more changes I used: Pickled jalapeño peppers, sake instead of white wine and a few sprinkles of Herbs de Provence. My guest were very happy with the end product. I served them with two food 52 recipes, butternut squash mash and Asian style green beans. All parties very happy! Thanks for the wonderful recipes. I can always count on the great cooks from food 52.
Amanda H. February 15, 2013
Love your tweaks, and glad all worked out well!
lschrive January 25, 2012
This is divine - it was fun to try something new in the kitchen with a brick! I almost skipped the peppers - would have been a bland and different dish if I had. Thanks for getting me out of my comfort zone.
Amanda H. January 26, 2012
Glad you went for it!
iowabaker October 22, 2011
I made this last last night and used a meyer lemon with a very sweet riesling. I even used a jar of my own pickled peppers from the garden. They were a mixture of hot and sweet hungarians, bell peppers, and jalapenos. If you're thinking of skipping the peppers DON'T!!! They are wonderful! Will make this recipe again and again.
Amanda H. October 22, 2011
Think I'm going to make it with Meyer lemon next time -- sounds good!
WoooPigSooie September 20, 2011
Made this last night and it was fantastic. The chicken was moist and flavorful - and the recipe was a breeze. I skipped step 3 b/c I didn't have time to grab the peppers, but I look forward to trying then next time!
ejm September 7, 2011
Make this pretty often and always marvel at how good it is for so little work.... Thanks!
fitsxarts July 6, 2011
this was amazing. i served it over my version of zuni cafe's bread salad and it was the perfect combo!
ejm July 4, 2011
oh my, this was very very good and really really easy. Thanks!
dollum June 22, 2011
Getting ready totry this out tonight. Just verifying that, yes, rinse the salt off then pat dry?
Amanda H. June 22, 2011
I don't rinse the chicken. I just pat it dry. Hope you enjoy it!
Rivka June 22, 2011
using this technique tonight, but don't have peppadews or other peppers. Amanda, any variations you've played with that have been successful?
Amanda H. June 22, 2011
I love it with just garlic and herbs, but some olives would be nice in place of the peppadews!
Rivka June 22, 2011
ooh, olives. great call. Will do!
aargersi June 21, 2011
I made this last night - followed the directions (my personal challenge :-) and it was delicious! I will make it this way again and also - of course - play with variations!
GSmodden June 20, 2011
Making this right now, and my apartment smells divine.