(Georgian chicken under a brick)
Image © Denys Kurbatov - Fotolia.com
In a skillet or on the grill, chicken tabaka (Georgian: ტაბაკა) is an excellent way to cook a whole chicken quickly. The meat turns out juicy and flavorful and the skin shatteringly crisp.
The Georgian method of splitting the chicken along the breast makes it easy to flatten the whole bird for quick, even cooking. A brick or other heavy object placed on top of the chicken speeds the process along even more.
The word tabaka doesn't mean "tobacco." Rather it is derived from the Georgian word tapha, a type of skillet in which chicken tabaka is often cooked. You can use a large cast-iron skillet.
3 to 4 servings
- Whole chicken -- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Oil or softened butter -- 4 tablespoons
- Rinse the chicken with cool water and pat it dry. Cut the breast meat away from the breastbone with a sharp knife, then use strong kitchen shears to cut the breast bone from the chicken.
- Open the chicken up and press down on the backbone to flatten the carcass. Pound the chicken a few times with a meat pounder to flatten it out even more. If you like, you can tuck the wings behind the neck and stick the ends of the legs into slits cut into the bottom of the chicken's back.
- Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high flame. Rub the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the oil or butter, then season well with salt and pepper. Add the remaining oil or butter to the skillet. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side up, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over so the skin side is down and place a plate on top of the chicken. Then put a clean brick or several heavy cans of food on top of the plate to weigh it down. Let the chicken cook for another 20 minutes, or until the skin is crispy brown.
- Remove the weight and plate and flip the chicken over again and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve with rice, a side salad and tkemali or niortskali sauce.
Chicken Tabaka Variations
- Individual Chicken Tabakas: Tabaka is more traditionally made with small Cornish game hens instead of a chicken to make individual portions. They will cook more quickly. If you only have one skillet, hold the cooked birds in a warm oven while you cook the rest.
- Seasonings: For added flavor, season the chicken with a some minced garlic, ground coriander or a big pinch of cayenne before adding it to the skillet.