Chicken Tabaka

Chicken tabaka is a Georgian dish prepared in a special pan with a lid, called the tapaka. A small bird (usually a poussin) is flattened and fried whole until brown and crispy on all sides. You can get some very good pictures of the process here (the site is in Russian, but Google Translate does a decent job). The carcass is sometimes flattened with a meat pounder; it’s not rare in restaurants to hear loud banging noises coming from the kitchen just after you order your tabaka!

My main problem with the original recipe is that you end up with too little meat and too many bones.  I like replacing the poussin with a fleshier bird, like a guinea hen, and splitting it in half to serve two people. I get rid of the carcass and some of the wing joints, and keep only the bones that most people enjoy gnawing on. This also allows me to expose most of the skin to the frying pan.

The rest of my preparation focuses on optimizing two qualities of a good chicken: tender meat and crispy skin. To that effect, I brine the meat as with the Guinea Hen Satsivi, then fry it in a hot pan skin side down, before finishing it in a very hot oven without flipping it.

This dish is meant to be complemented with sauce or vegetables, which is why the recipe lists so few ingredients. Try it with tkemali or with a red pepper purée.

Chicken tabaka
Yields 2 servings

1 chicken (or guinea hen), 2 1/2 to 3 lb
kosher salt
3/4 tsp piment d’espelette
1 oz clarified butter

  • Cut off the last 2 wing joints of the chicken and reserve for stock. Separate the meat from the carcass in two halves, starting from the breastbone. Each half should now consist of a boneless breast and bone-in wing joint and leg, skin-on and in one piece. Reserve the carcass for stock, as well. Place the chicken halves in a pot, cover with a brine made of cold water blended with 7% salt, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • Discard the brine and soak the chicken in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with piment d’espelette on all sides. Melt the clarified butter in a hot pan, add the meat skin side down, and sauté over high heat until brown. Transfer to a 500 F oven for about 15 minutes without flipping. Remove from the pan, let rest for a couple minutes, and serve.