Every grill jockey needs a couple of showstoppers. This one involves chicken and comes from Italy: pollo al mattone, chicken grilled under a brick. It looks great. It tastes great. And the weight of the brick gives you killer 3-D grill marks.
4 bricks, each wrapped in aluminum foil; oak chunks for building the fire, or 2 cups wood chips (preferably oak), soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover, then drained
2 large, whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 to 16 ounces each) or 4 half breasts (each half 6 to 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1?2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon
1?4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
If using whole breasts, cut each in half. Trim any sinews or excess fat off the chicken breasts and discard. Rinse the breasts under cold running water, then drain and blot dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the breasts on both sides with the salt, cracked black pepper, and hot red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the breasts with the garlic and rosemary, patting them on with your fingers. Arrange the breasts in a nonreactive baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and oil over them and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, turning several times.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. In the best of all worlds, you'd build your fire with oak chunks. Alternatively, use gas or charcoal, plus soaked wood chips for smoke. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat until you see smoke.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. If using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Arrange the chicken breasts on the hot grate, all facing the same direction, at a 45-degree angle to the bars of the grate. Place a brick on top of each. Grill the breasts until cooked, 4 to 6 minutes per side, rotating the breasts 90 degrees after 2 minutes on each side to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks. To test for doneness, poke a breast in the thickest part with your finger. It should feel firm to the touch. Transfer the breasts to plates or a platter and serve at once.
Click here to find out more about the book this recipe came from, How To Grill, by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, May 2001).