Picky Eater Problem?

I used to think my kids were picky eaters until the summer we took our 10-year-old son’s friend along on a camping trip. In addition to his sleeping bag and clothes, his mother sheepishly sent along a cardboard box full of his own food. Everything in it was white; he refused to eat colors!


Many kids balk at eating vegetables, but we can usually get them to eat tomatoes – even if it’s only on pizza. For years, my oldest son, Ben, turned up his nose at chicken. Jesse hated fish. And Max, who hardly met a culinary dish he didn’t love, paled at the sight of mayonnaise.


I quickly learned that it was better not to tell them the meal I had so lovingly preparedly was actually “good for you.” Instead, I came up with ways to appeal to their imagination.


Broccoli became trees and shrubs. Fish was grated into fish balls and served in soup. And chicken? Well, chicken was cooked under a brick.


The kids were incredulous the first time I made this recipe. I began by sending my oldest boy into the garden with instructions to bring me the two biggest, most intact bricks he could find from the path.


The dirtier the better, I told him. It all added to the flavor.


Okay, to be honest, I rinsed the bricks off and covered them in tin foil. But just the idea of it was enough to keep my boys hovering around in the kitchen, waiting to see what I would do next.


This traditional Italian method for cooking chicken makes for a spectacular presentation. And, it is as tasty as it looks. The bricks seal in the juices and the skin is crisp and crackling.


Of course, you need a couple of bricks, though stones also work. (I now keep a couple of bricks on hand just for this dish!) You also need a large, preferably cast iron, pan that will hold a chicken that’s been butterflied. Still, it is not an especially difficult recipe.


To my delight, I just discovered that food writer Mark Bittman of the New York Times recently included a version of our family favorite among his 25 top recipes. Serve it with some broccoli trees, sautéed in a little butter.


Chicken Under a Brick
  • 1 chicken, preferably free range
  • 2 ½ Tbl. fresh thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry. Flatten the chicken and split it completely in half by cutting through the breastbone.


Combine the thyme, garlic and olive oil in a large plastic bag or mixing bowl. Add the chicken, cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour.


Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Wrap two bricks in a couple of layers of foil. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, let the excess marinade drain off, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Set a large cast iron pan over medium high heat. When hot, add just enough oil to lightly cover the pan. Put the chicken skin side down and immediately put a brick on top of each side.


Turn the heat to medium and cook without moving the chicken until the skin is a deep golden brown and the chicken is cooked about halfway through – 20 to 25 minutes.


Remove the bricks, turn the chicken over and put the pan in the hot oven to finish roasting, another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.


Broccoli Trees
  • 1 bunch fresh broccoli
  • 1 Tbl. butter
  • Salt
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


Slice away the tough dark green skin around the main stalk and wash the broccoli. Cut the broccoli into “shrubs” or little trees.


Bring water to a fast boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and drop in the broccoli, allowing it to cook or blanche for about five minutes. Drain at once when done.


Melt the butter and pour over the broccoli and add a little cheese, if desired.


Sara Solovitch is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.




A New Column for Your Family


For me, family starts with food, and with this new column I aim to share my thoughts and experiences about healthy eating, quality ingredients and simple food. Simple food does not necessarily mean you can throw it together in 15 minutes. Instead, it’s the kind of cooking that brings a family together and keeps everybody at the table, talking, arguing, joking and picking at the crumbs.


– Sara Solovitch
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