Ode to the North End: Lolita’s Pollo al mattone, Panzanella, e asparagi


Buon giorno! Our first weekend day without plans in, like, forever.  We have piles of laundry and heaps of shopping to do, everything we stashed in the closet during our recent visitations  needed to be brought back into play, and we just basically needed to reset our lives.  This process starts with a lovely dinner on the deck.  Ahhhh…..  I can feel the heal.

The last few weeks have been beef seafood seafood beef, so today I decided on chicken.  I wanted a whole chicken, but I didn’t want to heat up my oven.  And although I wanted comfort food, I wanted something super savory delicious, and just a little bit different.  And I had a brick, so…

I’d heard about this Tuscan technique of cooking whole chickens, where one butterflied one’s bird and then crushed it under a brick on a searing hot grill.   I kept thinking about Giles Cory, but the association didn’t deter me.  I removed the backbone of my beautiful 4# Bell and Evans air-chilled bird, then spread her wide.  Cheeky minx.  Just to keep her in her place, I also snipped her wing tips.

I purchased this kitchen contraption at the North End’s Fisherman’s Festival this afternoon.  It’s a small, saucer sized dish with sharp pinches of glazed clay forming an abrasive surface against which — as the rather pushy salesman pointed out even after I paid for the thing — one can grate garlic, ginger, chocolate, hard cheeses, lemon peel, nutmeg, etc.

This is what it does to my cloves of garlic.  You get your hands dirty with this tool, but I don’t mind that, and it’s pretty and functional to boot.

Here’s some of Clayton’s lovely garden-fresh herbs, the stars of tonight’s dinner.  Oregano, rosemary, and sage form the flavors for my chicken, along with the garlic I’ve already prepared.

After rubbing my macerated garlic over my beautiful butterfly, I sprinkle, then pat down, my chopped herb blend, as well as some lemon zest – just ‘cuz – and then some sea salt, cracked black pepper, and a healthy dousing of EVOO.

Here’s a close-up.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that I stuffed a few sprigs of oregano, rosemary, and sage under the skin of each breast.  Don’t worry if you can’t see it, you’ll taste it.

I’ve split her up the middle, I’ve shoved spices down her front, and now I’ve spread her out in this undignified manner across the sizzling hot griddle of my grill.  She’s smokin’ hot!

The final insult: I press a foil-wrapped heavy brick on my bird’s breast, to help her cook evenly and quickly, and to trap in the juices.  I close the cover, and walk away for 20 minutes. Shes’ going to cook for at least 30 minutes total (flipping once after 20 minutes), or until my breast is cooked through to 165 degrees.

In the meantime, I prep my veg.  Look at these perfect spaghetti-thin stalks of sweet asparagus.

I want a sweet savor with my asparagus, so I start with some of Clayton’s tarragon.

I strip the leaves from the stalks, and add them, along with my trimmed spears, to a large zipper bag, with some EVOO and some of my homemade tarragon white wine vinegar.  I let this marinate for about 10 minutes.

Clayton pours himself a glass of red, and I pour myself a glass of white, and we sit and sigh in satisfaction, watching the sun go down, and listening to the chicken sizzle.

After 20 minutes or so, the chicken’s started to show some sweet caramelization on her underedges. Time to …

… spread the asparagus, and …

… flip the bird.  Sprinkle this side with some of your chopped rosemary, sage, oregano blend, and douse with a wee bit of EVOO.  Put the brick back on top of the bird, pressing the breasts down, then set the cover, and walk away for at least 10 minutes.

I’ve made something like a panzanella salad tonight, with my own personal spin.  I’ve added griddled garlic ciabatta bread and aged fontina cheese, both cut into small cubes to fresh watercress and a handful of basil leaves, pitted kalamata and green olives, and diced garden-fresh heirloom tomatoes.  EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, lemon juice, and a few splashes of tarragon vinegar round out the dressing.  Toss VERY well.

After my 15 minutes have passed, I check my chicken, which is now perfectly cooked, with skin seared crispy from below. Pull it off the grill, and set it aside to rest for 5 minutes, while you shift the position of your asparagus to ensure even grilling.

See how gorgeous? See my sage leaf and his friends, seared under the skin, right next to the breast?  Lovely!

Perfectly grilled chicken, moist and herbaceous, garlicky and crisp-skinned. Cubed bread salad with watercress and basil, tomatoes and olives, sharp cheese and downright deliciousness.  And sweet spiced roasted asparagus spears, just to round out the plate.  This is deck eating at it’s finest – a fresh garden herbed light delight.

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5 thoughts on “Ode to the North End: Lolita’s Pollo al mattone, Panzanella, e asparagi

    • Thanks! Which pan do you mean… the little garlic grater? It’s actually a ceramic dish, and I purchased it from a vendor at the North End Fisherman’s Festival this weekend. I’m afraid I don’t recall the name of the vendor, but next time I see him I’ll be sure to get his card so I can help him hawk his wares.

  1. I’m braving the humidity and going to market NOW. The photos are too arresting, the recipe too much a favorite, and the story of this iteration too compelling to be ignored. I hope the humidity does not wreak havoc on my hair.

  2. Pingback: Apple, Sage, and Cheddar -Sauced Brick Chicken with Roasted Acorn Squash « WhatLolitaEats

  3. Pingback: Tea-Smoked Scallops with Panzanella | What Lolita Eats…

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