Uccello Arrabbiato Sotto un Mattone (Angry Bird Under a Brick)…really, Southeast Asian Chicken with Pepper-Lime Dip
May 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’ve been away from blogging for over a month now all because of Angry Birds. Not because I’ve been addicted to the game (well, mildly addicted) but it’s my dear little boy who loves to play. When he is not playing on my iPhone, he is playing with his toy King Pig, Black Bird, and the three little Blue Birds. One afternoon he decided that the kitchen table was a great place to play. Consequently, knocking a glass of water onto Mom’s laptop and completely frying it…yes, it was actually sizzling…thus, no blogging.
I don’t really have a good excuse for not blogging for so many weeks. I’ve been up and running on my new MacBook Pro for weeks now but I’ve had a bit of a creativity block because I keep thinking of exacting my revenge on those darn birds. For weeks now I’ve been experimenting on various versions of squished poultry and pork. At one point I even had sausage stuffed inside a chicken breast (not bad but not blog-worthy).
I came to the conclusion that this whole incident is due to those darn birds! So what better way to get revenge than to squash those little buggers!! Squashing a whole bird under a cast iron pan proved to be quite satisfying. Although, perfecting the technique took quite a bit of work.
If you read the numerous recipes that come up in a Google search for pollo al mattone (chicken under a brick) they all make it sound simple – split a chicken, season, put a few bricks on it while cooking – poof! Perfect chicken! Not quite so easy. The main problems I came across was burning the chicken skin and/or under cooking it. If your marinade has any sweetener, which mine often do, caramelizing occurs and the skin of the chicken can burn or stick to the pan and foil. The first time I tried this the entire skin of the chicken stuck to my pan. I had a deliciously flavored skinless chicken.
The theory behind cooking chicken under a brick is centuries old. Meats such as beef and lamb retain a juicy tenderness due to the fat content that is marbled through the meat. Chicken on the other hand is quite lean and relies on its natural juices to be moist. Technically the use of placing a heavy object on the chicken while cooking is to retain the natural juices by cutting the cooking time and trapping the moisture before it evaporates.
Besides the problem of my chicken sticking and/or burning I initially didn’t find that my chicken cooked any faster. If anything I found it was consistently undercooked. I resolved that the problem was that my “weight” was cold. When I heated my weight prior to putting it on top of the chicken I found it cooked much more evenly. I was able to lower the heat so the chicken did not burn but it still cooked in a reasonable amount of time.
I started with a Tuscan seasoned chicken, which tasted wonderful but after making it three times and not being satisfied with the technical results of the preparation I simply got bored of it (it’s a great recipe so I’ll blog it at a later date). So I continued my experimenting with a completely different flavoring. I moved from Italy to Southeast Asia.
This recipe for Southeast Asian Chicken with Pepper-Lime Dip is full of flavor. If you have the time I highly recommend marinating the chicken overnight. It’s adapted from one of my favorite Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, Savoring Southeast Asia by joyce Jue. This recipe is very similar to their recipe for Mouan Ang.
One last note, although I feel quite satisfied with finally squashing the bird, I have to admit that I found this technique a little more work than necessary. My normal technique for roasting a chicken is to split and flatten it as I do in this recipe but simply bake it raised on a rack with a half-inch of water underneath. The steam from the water helps retain the moisture. But I did like the charred flavor of searing the chicken in a grill pan prior to baking.
Weather did not allow me to test this recipe on the grill so when I get the opportunity I will update this post with grilling instructions.
Southeast Asian Chicken with Pepper-Lime Dip
One 4 lb. Chicken, flattened (directions below) or split a whole chicken into two halves
1 Tbls. plus 2 tsp. Black Peppercorns or fresh ground using a coarse setting, separated
3 tsp. Salt, preferably a coarse type such as Maldon Salt Flakes or coarse Kosher Salt, separated
5 cloves (about 3 Tbls.) Garlic, chopped
3 Tbls. Low-sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tbls. Fish Sauce
1 Tbls. Turbinado Sugar (regular sugar can be used also)
3 Tbls. Vegetable Oil, separated
Fresh Coriander, coarsely chopped
FLATTEN CHICKEN: Using sharp kitchen scissors, cut a whole chicken along one side of the spine. The spine can be removed by cutting along the other side but I prefer to leave the spine on (I like to pick at the meat along the bone).
Turn the chicken skin side down. Using a sharp knife, make a small cut along the top of the breastbone. This step is not necessary but it helps to get the chicken nice and flat. Flip the chicken bone side down. Using the palm of your hand, press down on the breast area of the chicken so it flattens.
You can leave the wings so they fall between the breast and thigh or twist the wing tip up over the first joint. Flipping the wing tip up will pull the wing to the top area of the breast and allow the breast and thigh area to brown and cook more evenly. Alternately, you can slice through the breastbone to split the chicken into two halves.
MARINATE: Using a mortar and pestle, grind 2 tsp. black peppercorns (or coarsely ground black pepper) and 2 tsp. coarse salt.
Add garlic and grind together (it will be almost paste-like).
Put mixture into a bowl. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, Turbinado sugar, and 1 Tbls. oil. Stir mixture until sugar is dissolved.
Place the flattened chicken into a platter. Cover both sides with marinade.
For added flavor, lift the skin at the top of the breast (there will be 2 pockets, one for each side of the breast) and spoon in 1 tsp. of marinade into each breast pocket between skin and meat. Using your fingers or a butter knife, rub marinade down so it spreads evenly.
At the butt end of the chicken you can lift the skin gently at the top of the thigh and spoon in 1 tsp. of marinade into each thigh pocket. Rub the marinade down so it is spread evenly.
Place the chicken in refrigerator to marinate for 4 hours to overnight.
COOKING: Preheat the oven to 325°. Place a cast-iron pan in the oven to heat. Alternately you can place it on the stove at medium heat.
Heat a grill pan on medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbls. oil to pan, swirling it around to coat evenly. Place the chicken, skin side down, onto pan.
NOTE: I have a small grill pan so I had to split my chicken in half and cook each half separately.
Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil then place hot cast-iron pan on top. If you would like additional weight fill a kettle with water, bring it to a boil and place the full hot kettle on top (note: if the kettle is cold it will cool the temperature of the cast-iron pan).
Lower the heat to medium to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. You want the skin to sear but not burn.
Remove the kettle, cast-iron pan, and foil. Place the chicken skin side up into a baking pan.
Place foil and cast iron pan back on top of chicken (I did not use the kettle for this step) and place the pan in the oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, place the limes, cut side down on the grill pan and cook at medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.
SERVING: Chicken can be carved as desired. Sprinkle coriander on top of chicken. In a small bowl, squeeze the juice out of the limes, add 1 tsp. salt and 1 Tbls. black pepper, and stir well. Optional: You can add 1 tsp. chopped coriander to the dip. The pepper-lime sauce should be served on the side as a dipping sauce.
For those of you who are like me and like to have an old fashion printed copy of recipes, the below link is to a PDF (minus photos to keep it on one page).