Friday, August 3, 2012

Chicken Under a Cornbread Brick

For a copy of the recipe for Chicken Under a Cornbread Brick, click HERE.
Welcome to new subscriber Kristen! We’re glad you’re here.

Over the nearly two years I’ve been doing this site, you may have noticed that many of my favorite recipes have two things in common: they taste good, and they include some small element that is whimsical and unique. (If you can’t have fun cooking, serving and eating the food, what’s the point?) This week’s recipe certainly fits the bill: Chicken Under a Cornbread Brick. In the recipe below, the brick is both literal and figurative. A classic “chicken under a brick,” or “brick chicken,” is made by using one or more foil-covered bricks (or similar heavy weight) to keep the chicken pressed down onto the pan for even cooking throughout, especially for crisping the skin. The recipe below includes this, and adds a more metaphorical brick: fresh-baked brick-colored cornbread that is cut to the same proportions as a brick, and that is served on top of the chicken. If you like your chicken skin tasty and crisp, this is a great way to prepare it.

Some Cook’s Notes:
  • Since browning and crisping the skin is a large part of the reason why the bricks are being used in the first place, the recipe below uses bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. (Brick Chicken is sometimes prepared using a whole chicken that has had its backbone and breastbone removed, but using bone-in, skin-on parts is just easier.)
  • In the photos that accompany the recipe, you’ll see the bricks piled on the chicken in a way that may look a little awkward. This is because the pan I used to cook the chicken was smaller than it should have been. Use a bigger pan, and you’ll be able to place the bricks in a single layer on your chicken.
  • Readers who know I usually try to keep my recipes reduced-fat may be surprised that this recipe includes cooking and serving the skin, where so much of the chicken’s fat is. It’s not as bad as you might think. A proper portion of chicken is four or five ounces, a piece of chicken roughly the size of a man’s palm. That’s not a very big piece of skin. It only starts to become a problem you plan on serving each person half a chicken. Besides, you have to have some fun.
  • The recipe below includes a description of how I like to make cornbread, but feel free to use any cornbread recipe you like. The main thing is making it look like a brick. This is done by adding to the batter a few drops of yellow food coloring, a few drops of blue food coloring, and enough red food coloring to make the batter the color of bricks. (The yellow and red make orange, and blue and orange make brown. Add extra red and you’ll get the brick color seen in the photos.) After the cornbread is baked, cut it into pieces each with the same proportions as a brick. (A standard brick is about 8” x 4” x 2”. I cut my cornbread bricks to about 3” x 1-1/2” x ¾”, which is scaled down from a full-size brick but maintains the same proportions.)
  • In the photo above, the chicken and cornbread are shown plated on a bed of rice with diced tomatoes, and encircled by green beans. There’s also a sprig of thyme as a garnish.

This recipe makes four dinner servings, plus extra cornbread.

First, let’s make the cornbread “bricks.”

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is heating, cook 4 – 6 turkey bacon strips to slightly crisp, and chop into small pieces.

Combine 1 cup of corn meal, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp kosher salt, and ½ cup sugar in a bowl.

Make a well in the dry ingredients. In the well, put ¼ cup neutral flavored oil (canola or similar), ¾ cup of skim milk, and two egg-substitute eggs.

Mix the wet ingredients in the well, then mix in the dry ingredients to form a batter.

Add the bacon and 2 Tbsp of fresh, chopped sage and gently combine.

Add a few drops of yellow food coloring, a few drops of blue food coloring, and enough of the red food coloring to make the batter the color of bricks.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8” x 8” baking pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. When the cornbread has cooled, remove it from the baking pan.

To make the cornbread into “bricks,” slice off just enough of the edges to square off the corners. Gently run a long bread knife horizontally across the top to remove the rounded part and create a flat top.

Slice the remaining cornbread slab into 3” x 1-1/2” x ¾”, the same proportions as a real brick. Set the cornbread “bricks” aside till ready to serve.

Next, we’ll marinate the chicken.

Whisk together the marinade ingredients: ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup white wine vinegar, 4 cloves finely chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, and a dash of hot sauce.

Place the marinade and 2-1/2 – 3 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in a sealed plastic food storage bag. Let the chicken marinate for about 3 hours in the refrigerator, and for another hour on the kitchen counter.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the seasoning mix by combining the following ingredients and grinding in a spice grinder: 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried tarragon, 1 tsp celery salt, and ¼ tsp fresh ground white pepper.

To cook the chicken:

When the chicken is done marinating, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the marinated chicken with some of the seasoning mix. Place the marinated chicken in the pan, skin-side down. Immediately place the bricks on top of the chicken so that the entire skinned surface of the chicken is in contact with the skillet. After the bricks are in place, reduce the heat to medium.

Cook the chicken until the skin is well browned and a little crisp, about 18 minutes. (While the chicken is cooking is a good time to prepare any side dishes you’ll be serving with the chicken.)

Remove the bricks, carefully turn the chicken over in the skillet, and replace the bricks. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees. (Depending on how thick your chicken is, after turning the chicken skin-side up you may be able to save a bit of time by finishing the cooking in the oven or microwave. If you use the microwave, be sure to remove the bricks and move the chicken from the pan to a microwave-safe dish. If you use the oven, put the bricks back on top of the chicken after turning it skin-side up.)

After the chicken has finished cooking, allow it to rest for five minutes before plating and serving. (For serving, place one of the cornbread “bricks” on top of each serving of chicken.)

For a copy of the recipe for Chicken Under a Cornbread Brick, click HERE.
So there it is! (It’s not every day you get to prepare great-tasting food using construction materials.) Have fun cooking this delicious, whimsical dish!

Please come back next week for another recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. The very concept of a cornbread brick blows my mind!

  2. Thanks, Sandy. I suppose it is inevitable when cooking and the building trades collide.