California Brick Chicken with Apricot-Mint Chimichurri

This dish is about as old-school as it gets. In Italian this is called pollo al mattone, and to make it you start by removing the backbone[ and flattening the chicken. Then you brine it, dry it, season it, and cook it with the pressure of two hot bricks on top. Sounds caveman, I know, but wait till you try it. This version has my California spin on it with a dry rub that has a little heat, a little sweet, and a whole lotta flavor.]

Total Time:
30 min
Cook:
30 min

Yield:
4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
  • Two 4-to 5-pound whole free-range chickens
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Apricot-Mint Chimichurri (recipe follows)
  • Apricot-Mint Chimichurri:
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
Directions
  • You'll need: Grill, 4 bricks wrapped in foil or a heavy cast-iron skillet, food processor or blender, instant-read meat thermometer

  • Remove the backbone from one of the chickens. Split the breast plate and press down on the chicken in all joints to flatten it. Tuck the wings under so that the chicken lies flat. This will help it cook evenly. Repeat with the second chicken.

  • In a small bowl, combine the chile powders, paprika, fennel, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then rub the mixture all over the flattened chickens, making sure you get it into all the gaps in and around the joints. Marinate the chickens in the refrigerator for 1 hour uncovered. (Leaving the chicken uncovered helps the crust dry out and ensures you get a nice crispy skin when it cooks.)

  • Heat a grill to medium heat and rub down the grates with a lightly oiled paper towel to clean it and create a nonstick surface. Place the chickens skin side down on the grill. Watch for flare-ups when the chicken initially hits the grill, as the fat will render and drip down. If necessary, move the chicken to a new spot out of the flames. This will occur only in the initial drop. Place foil-wrapped bricks on top of the chickens to flatten them as they cook.

  • Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the bricks and flip the chicken. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature between the leg and thigh joint reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

  • Transfer the chickens to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing each one into 10 pieces. Serve with apricot-mint chimichurri.

Apricot-Mint Chimichurri:
  • Place the apricots and honey in a glass bowl; cover with hot water and soak for 10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, in salted, boiling water, blanch the mint, parsley, and cilantro for about 30 seconds. Shock immediately in ice water and spread on a paper towel-lined sheet to dry.

  • Remove the apricots from the hot water and roughly chop. In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except the olive oil and process until all ingredients are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly incorporate the olive oil and pulse until just combined (the consistency should be like a thick sauce). Cover and store in the refrigerator to meld, about 10 minutes.

  • Makes: about 2 cups

Prep-Ahead Tip: Split, flatten, rub, and refrigerate the chickens a day or two in advance of the party (or pop them in a cooler if heading off on a different outdoor adventure). The longer they marinate in the dry rub, the better the flavor, and it makes for easy grilling when it's time for the backyard bash to start.

Prep-Ahead Tip: Make chimichurri one day ahead and press plastic wrap on surface, to keep the color from turning, before storing in the refrigerator.


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