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Brick-Grilled Chicken Recipe

Crisp, juicy, tender, smoky—those are a Napa Valley chef’s terms of endearment for one of his own favorite dishes. It’s a hit with diners, too.

Brick-Grilled Chicken from Farmstead in St. Helena, Calif., image
Photo caption
Earthy greens and beans enhance brick-grilled chicken from Farmstead in St. Helena, Calif.

Brick-Grilled Chicken with Salsa Verde From Farmstead, St. Helena, Calif. Requested by Via reader Peggy Pope of Redding, Calif.

Just how good is the chicken grilled under a brick at Farmstead restaurant? So good that executive chef Sheamus Feeley fears his customers might mutiny if he were ever to yank this dish from the menu. So good that the chef not only cooks it at home for his wife and kids but often eats it himself for lunch at the restaurant (738 Main St., 707-963-9181,

“It’s one of the best restaurant chicken dishes out there,” Feeley says. “I could eat it any day, anywhere, anytime—no problem.”

It’s easy to see why the year-old rustic-chic restaurant housed in an old nursery barn gets order after order for the dish, which is available at both lunch and dinner for $22. The skin is crispy and the flesh is moist, with a haunting flavor from the smoky oak embers it’s cooked over.

The restaurant serves the grilled chicken with zesty salsa verde (a garlicky herb-and-oil sauce) and accompanies it with creamy flageolet beans and earthy lacinato kale grown on its sister property, the 650-acre Long Meadow Ranch Rutherford Gardens in the Napa Valley. It’s a dish emblematic of the restaurant’s lusty, approachable food. “I like to make soul-satisfying food that people want to eat on their day off,” Feeley says.

His recipe for home cooks makes good on that promise. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, salt, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and sweet paprika that acts almost as a brine. (Plan ahead: The meat marinates overnight.) Foil-wrapped bricks press the birds flat on the grill so they cook quickly and end up with crackling-crisp skin. Note that the chickens Feeley calls for are quite small—under 3 1/2 pounds, a trim weight that’s most common in organically raised birds. If you can’t find chickens that small, you’ll need to make a little extra marinade and increase the cooking times by a few minutes.

Brick-Grilled Chicken with Salsa Verde Serves 6 to 8 Adapted with permission from Sheamus Feeley, Farmstead

Chicken 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon powdered garlic ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil Two 3- to 3 ½-pound chickens

Salsa verde ⅓ cup minced chives ½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley ¼ cup finely chopped mint 1 tablespoon minced garlic 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1. Prepare the chicken: Place one chicken, breast side up, on a cutting board and, using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone, starting in the cavity at the thigh end. Make the same cut on the other side, then remove and discard the backbone. Open the chicken and flip it over, then flatten the bird by pressing on the breastbone with the heel of your hand. Repeat these steps with the second chicken.

2. Marinate the chicken: In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, salt, paprika, oregano, garlic, pepper, and olive oil. Set the chickens breast side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Flatten the birds, then fold the wing tips under and arrange the thighs next to the breasts. With a sharp knife, make two slashes in each breast and one slash in each of the legs and thighs. Smear the chickens all over with the marinade, cover, and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Remove the chickens from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before grilling to allow them to warm to room temperature.

3. Make the salsa verde: In a medium-size bowl, combine the salsa verde ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside. (Makes about 2 ½ cups.)

4. Cook the chicken: Light a grill. Cover two clean bricks with aluminum foil. Grill the chickens breast side down, each weighted with a brick, over moderate heat until browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the chickens, replace the bricks, and grill over low heat until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer the chickens to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes, then carve into six or eight portions. Pass the bowl of salsa verde at the table.

Photography by Carolyn Jung

This article was first published in June 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify facts.