“Tabaka’ or ‘Tapaka”? It is still not really clear how to call this dish. Some people say this name came from a Georgian skillet ‘tapak’, others claim that flat tobacco leaves inspired the cooks. I think “Tapaka” was accidently transformed to ‘Tabaka” as it sounds more pleasant in Russian.
I grew up with the ‘Chicken Tabaka’, a delicious Georgian dish that became enormously popular in the Soviet Union. Nearly every Moscow restaurant had this smoky fried bird on its menu. I keep the ‘Chicken Tabaka’ in my family recipe book. And now my son makes his own “Tabaka” with lots of hot pepper and very hot sauces for dipping.
To make the dish right you need to use a Cornish hen and a heavy weight. Yes, this recipe is very similar to the well known ‘Chicken under brick’, but they taste differently. Sweet meat of a young bird absorbs smokiness of the fire creating a unique taste. Crispy outside and juicy inside, this chicken is great for many occasions – a family dinner, a Sunday brunch or a special feast.
Cornish hens can be prepared on a grill or in a pan (heavy cast iron is the best). No doubt, these grilled birds are incredible – they taste delightful, look quite impressive, and are so easy to prepare – you won’t go wrong with the Chicken Tabaka.
Grilled (or roasted) vegetables), roasted or fried potatoes, green salads (like with apples and pomegranate), eggplants, fresh vegetables (with yogurt based dip), green beans, tomatoes with parsley pistou, or corn salad – all these dishes are great with Chicken Tabaka.
Pat dry the hen with a paper towel. Put the bird on a cutting board breast side up. With a sharp knife or scissors, cut down the middle of the breastbone to separate the rib cage. Make sure that the hen remains in one piece.
With a meat pounder or your hand, flatten the hen.
Rub the hen with olive oil, season with salt pepper and garlic.
Preheat a grill or a pan. Arrange the Cornish hen skin side up; put a weight on it (a grill press, a small cast iron pan, or a brick in a foil will work). Cook over medium to high heat for 5-7 minutes; turn over and continue cooking under press for another 5-7 minutes.
Cook with pleasure and enjoy the world!