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Walnut Creek Magazine


Mar 07, 2020 04:49PM ● By Sarah Whitmore

HEAR ME OUT. As cooks, we manipulate flavor by varying heat, time, and ingredients. What about pounds? Literally, crushing kilos! You’re missing out on amazing flavors and textures by forgetting to squish food. Consider: Two slices of stale bread, a swipe of mayo, a slice of ham, a little cheese. Close it up and it’s what? A yucky sandwich. However, mash that dull hoagie in a panini press and oooh!  what do we have here? A crunchy, melty num-num.

Adding weight/pressure to the cooking process creates uniquely delicious flavor and texture. You increase the food’s surface area exposed to heat—insisting on sear. Juices are trapped, flavors potentized. Crispiness surges—plus, how fun is it to smash food? Very fun. There are plenty of recipes for chicken under a brick. A single brick? In order to make a meaningful dent in your chicken you’ll need at least 8 bricks (40 pounds).

BRICKS ARE FOR CHIMNEYS. I would like to debunk the myth that there are loose bricks lying around. Maybe if you’re an old-timey chimney sweep, but most of us are not. Developing this recipe, I couldn’t find a brick to save my life. Instead of breaking into my neighbor’s side yard and prying apart his new patio, I filled a 9-quart, cast iron Dutch oven with a gallon of water. Then I added my heaviest chopping block—grand total: 43 pounds!



1 whole chicken, spatchcocked (Don’t panic, I’ll explain in a second.)

½ cup pancetta, diced (4 ounces)

1 large, red onion, peeled and sliced into thick rings

1-pound mild, red peppers (about 2 bell peppers and 3 Cubanelles or similar) cleaned and sliced lengthwise into quarters—reserve a few small, whole peppers for garnish

5 Tbsp olive oil, divided

3-5 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and halved

2 tsp ground paprika

2-3 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh-cracked, black pepper

½ pound Basque or Spanish-style chorizo, sliced into thick rings

1 cup equal parts, chopped, fresh rosemary, oregano, and sage—reserve sprigs for garnish

1 ½ cups red wine

1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped


Use kitchen shears to remove the spine from 1 whole chicken by cutting along each side of backbone, tail to tip. Once out, flip and firmly flatten the chicken. Now you are a Spatchcocker. Don’t worry. Many of us are. Lightly coat both sides of chicken with olive oil. Season both sides of chicken, liberally, with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat.

Lay chorizo rings and pancetta, evenly spaced, in pan. Lay onion rings on top of chorizo and pancetta. Place garlic ON TOP of onion rings. (Garlic will burn, becoming bitter, on bottom of pan.)

Once pan sizzles, lay chicken, skin-side down, on top of garlic/onions/chorizo. Place rosemary, oregano, and sage over exposed side of chicken. Lay pepper pieces over herbs, drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Place weight on top of peppers—smashing chicken. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until chicken and onions are well browned.

Remove weight. Flip the bird. (You know perfectly well what I mean.) With chicken now skin-side up, add 1 (1/2) cups wine. Let the chicken simmer on stove 15 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Without cooling, change oven temp. to broil. Remove weight and place simmering chicken, pan and all, under the broiler. ‘Place chicken under broiler until very well browned and blistered—4-8 minutes. Sprinkle on parsley, let rest a few minutes.

Serve family-style, carving from the pan at the table. Complete this gorgeous scene with a simple salad and a crusty loaf of bread.