This Tuscan technique is guaranteed to turn ho-hum chicken into a juicy, crisp-skinned, flavorful delight. Called pollo al mattone in Italian, the dish starts with a flattened chicken and a savory marinade. Add a foil-covered brick to hold the chicken flat to the grill while it cooks. The result is the crispest possible exterior and a juicy, evenly cooked interior. Switch up the marinade -- recipes for four delicious versions are offered here -- for extra variety.
Step 1: Preparing the Cornish Hens or Chickens: Unwrap Cornish hens or chicken. Remove giblets from cavity; rinse and pat dry. Place Cornish hens or chicken on cutting board breast-side-up with open cavity facing you. Using poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut through the entire length of the breast area. Flatten Cornish hen by pressing firmly down with both hands to so it resembles one large flat section. (Or ask the butcher where you shop to split and flatten the Cornish hens or chicken for you.)
Step 2: Prepare Marinade: Select a Marinade and mix all ingredients.
Place Cornish hens or chicken in large resealable plastic bag or glass baking dish. Add Marinade; turn to coat Cornish hens or chicken evenly. Seal bag or cover dish. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight for best flavor.
Step 3: Prepare Bricks and Grill: One brick will be needed for each Cornish hen and two for the chicken. If necessary, rinse bricks before using. Wrap each brick in 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Ensure that grilling surface is clean and ready to use. If using nonstick cooking spray, apply only to a cold grilling surface.
Step 4: Grilling: Preheat grill 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low (target cooking temperature is 325°F to 350°F). Remove Cornish hens from Marinade. Place skin-side down on preheated grill. Carefully and quickly position bricks on top of Cornish hens; close lid. Discard any remaining Marinade. Grill Cornish hens 20 to 25 minutes or chicken 40 to 50 minutes or until cooked through, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove bricks using oven mitt, turn Cornish hens or chicken and place bricks back on top to finish cooking.
Click here for Asian-Style Marinade, Southwest Marinade, Tuscan Marinade and Orange-Thyme Marinade recipes.
•Crushing herbs before adding to marinade will release their natural oils and increase the flavor of the marinade.
•For maximum flavor, marinate overnight in refrigerator, turning Cornish hens or chicken occasionally in marinade.
•Metal tongs work best for turning the Cornish hens or chicken.
•Avoid excessive charring and prevent "flare-ups" by maintaining target cooking temperature (325°F to 350°F).
•Bricks are heavy and can be awkward when handling so use caution when handling. Also, the bricks become very hot while the Cornish hens are cooking. Use heavy duty oven mitts to remove bricks when turning the Cornish hens or chicken.
CAUTION: Bricks may retain heat for up to 60 minutes after being removed from grill.