Chicken al Mattone with Thyme Pesto

June 10, 2010
1 Rating
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Al Mattone means "with a brick". This Tuscan technique for grilling makes use of heavy bricks to weigh down a butterflied chicken so that it is pressed against the grate. The result is a juicy, smoky, perfectly cooked chicken with crispy golden skin. In this recipe, the chicken is marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and thyme overnight before it is grilled. It is served with a thyme pesto sauce. I knew it was going to be good. The aroma from the grill was intoxicating. The dogs were going berserk. The children came into the kitchen asking what smelled so good. We were not disappointed. This is a perfect meal for a casual summer dinner party, but it is simple enough to make anytime. —Waverly

Test Kitchen Notes

This is not one of those birds you need to reserve for a weekend BBQ. Waverly's use of larder staples, combined with the set and forget marinade and make-ahead pesto, means this is perfect for a Tuesday night meal that requires only crusty bread, a green salad and a bottle of wine. Seriously, the hardest part of this dish is finding the right sized stone along the garden path. —cheese1227

  • Prep time 24 hours
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), rinsed and patted dry, and backbone removed
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1-foot-square paving stone wrapped in aluminum foil (use a cast iron skillet if you can't find one)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In This Recipe
  1. To marinate the chicken: Place chicken, skin side up, in a glass baking dish. Press down on the center of the breast to break the sternum. The chicken should lie flat now. Rub it with marinade, making sure to loosen the skin and rub the marinade under the skin as well. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  2. To grill the chicken: Remove chicken from refrigerator. Drain the marinade and pat the chicken dry. Season it with salt and pepper. Wrap your paving stone in foil (I pulled a cement paving stone out of my garden and washed it off). Prepare your grill. (Note: I threw a few mesquite wood chips onto my grill to give it a little something extra.) Brush your grill rack with a bit of oil. When the fire reaches medium-high heat and you can hold your hand over the grill about 5 seconds, place the chicken skin-side-down on the grill grate. Brush your wrapped paving stone with a little oil and then place it on top of the chicken. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes. Using grilling gloves, very carefully remove the stone. Flip the chicken, replace the stone on top, and grill until chicken is done, about 12 to 15 minutes longer. About five minuets before chicken is done, grill the lemon wedges. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Let chicken rest, covered with foil, for 5 to 10 minutes, and then cut into quarters.
  3. For the pesto: Combine parsley, thyme leaves, lemon zest, Parmesan, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor. When finely chopped, add olive oil in a steady stream until pesto is smooth. Season to taste with salt. (Note: this can be done up to 1 week ahead.)
  4. Serve grilled chicken with a dollop of pesto and a lemon wedge. Tell your diners to squeeze the lemon over the pesto. Enjoy.

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Waverly used to be a lawyer and is now a mother 24/7. She has made a commitment to cooking for her family and absolutely loves it even when her family does not. She is teaching them, one meal at a time, to enjoy wholesome homemade food. She abhors processed food but recognizes its insidious nature and accepts the fact that her children will occasionally get some Skittles, Doritos, or the like. Her philosophy and hope is that if she teaches them well at home, they will prefer wholesome healthy foods when they go out into the world without her.