Chicken “Al Mattone”
This baby chicken dish from Rome can be made using poussin or cornish hens. Cooking under a heavy weight, such as a foil-wrapped brick in this case, has been practiced for centuries. It ensures a crispy skin and a moist interior.
Cornish Hens Under a Brick
- 2 cornish game hens or poussin (baby chicken), each weighing about 1 pound
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 lemon, sliced
Place a large heavy frying pan over medium heat.
With a boning knife or kitchen shears, remove the backbone and the wings of the cornish hens. Place them skin side up on a cutting board, and press down on the breast bone so they lay flat. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add the olive oil to the pan. Place the birds in the pan, skin down, and top with herb sprigs and lemon slices. You’ll most likely need to cook them one at a time, unless you have a large enough frying pan.
Place a foil wrapped brick on top of the bird and pan roast for 8 to 10 minutes until the skin is crispy and it’s almost cooked through. If the skin is browning too fast, turn down the heat.
Flip the cornish hens over and cook for 5 minutes, using the bricks again as a weight.
Serve, garnishing with extra lemon wedges.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.