Chicken Tapaka (Georgian style butterflied cornichon hen cooked on a pan). (VIDEO)
Updated: May 17, 2022
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Every family has their Sunday favorite dinner, and in the US, Sunday is considered to be the day to have a family meal. Well, you know me by now, I like the old-fashioned way to feed my family. So, for me, gathering my family together for a meal is so very important but not just on Sunday!
Also, I am not one who is going to prepare the same standard food for each family meal such as the traditional roast beef or spaghetti with meatballs dinners. A good chicken dinner is a winner too. Am I right?
Chicken Tapaka, is an authentic Georgian dish: Juicy and very flavorful quickly cooking a whole bird in a pan using a press. This chicken recipe is a winner when it comes to timing. No time to make a properly roasted chicken? No problem, just make Chicken Tapaka!
What is chicken Tapaka?
The recipe originated we believe in the Caucasus region. It is a staple in Georgian cuisine as well as with all post-Soviet Union countries. The name "tapha" means pan, heavy skillet.
The aroma that is produced during cooking comes from a spice called khmeli-Suneli. If you don't want to buy a packet of this spice, make your own spice mix, which is super easy to make. Please check this recipe on fantastic Eggplant Boats with Walnut Meat and Pomegranate Seeds: Vegan and Gluten Free and it provides you with instructions on making a super easy and quick khmeli-Suneli type spice mix.
Besides this spice, that traditionally have been used, as well as other spices that every family I'm sure has as a family secret, is the chicken.
The chicken has to be young bird and small, no bigger than a pound. In the US I have no idea where to buy this kind of chicken, even at the farmer's market I couldn't find an under mature chicken. So, a Cornish hen is the way to go. I love the taste of its delicate lean meat flavor. Paired with a buttery tomato-based sauce makes this bird sing. It's delicious! And I hope you give this recipe a try very soon.
What do I need to make this dish?
Chicken or Cornish hen, if you use chicken, try to find the smallest bird possible, then cut in half, and use one half following the rest of the recipe.
Spices, I think the Khmeli-Suneli is a must, but if you don't have it, use cumin and turmeric, this combo gives you a beautiful flavor.
Heavy skillet, this is a must have piece of equipment in the kitchen: heavy bottom or cast-iron pan. If you don't have a special lid, like in my case, use anything that can be used as a press. I used a plate with another cast iron pan on top of it. Basically, anything that you have on hand.
How to serve chicken Tapaka?
Chicken Tapaka is traditionally served with many sides such as raw and cooked veggies in addition to plain rice or potatoes, but the key side is the sauce. Adjika based sauce is very popular in Georgia, but here it isn't easy to find. So, I like to serve this dish with the accumulated juices from the skillet as a side sauce; delicious tomato-buttery sauce with a beautiful garlic taste. Yummy. Also, I use a creamy garlicky sauce, created with cream fraiche, herbs and garlic. This creamy sauce provides so much love to your chicken/hens and to the potatoes, especially if you are serving plain boiled or baked potatoes. The recipe for the creamy garlicky sauce you will find at the end of this blog.
Why eating Sunday dinner as a family is important
Eating dinner together as a family is important now more than ever. According to Dr. Kopecky, "Nutrition is now the #1 cause of early death, and early disease in our country and the world". Ultra-processed foods have many added ingredients, such as sugar, salt, fat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and stabilizers.
In today's world, there is such an emphasis on speed and that everything has be done at a fast pace even quality and quality meals.
Spending time as a family around the dinner table should be treasured moments that produce beautiful memories and grow us closer. Raising children and solving problems at the dinner table is important. In our family, we always eating dinner together and on Sunday, we love to have friends over for dinner. We sit to eat earlier, but prior to dinner, everyone is sniffing around the kitchen trying to guess what is for dinner. I often make children to help me with dinner because life is too short to spend time in front of screens.
I'm a true believer in that Sunday Dinner should be reintroduced and continued in the US as weekly event.
Let's do it...
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Making Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 generous portions or 4 with sides
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
Ingredients for the chicken
2 Cornish hens 1 lb. each
2 teaspoons pink salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoon sweet paprika
2 Tablespoons Khamel Suneil
2/3 cups tomato sauce
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
Ingredients for sauce to serve (optional)
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
3/4 cup cream fraiche or whole fat yogurt
1 clove of garlic
pinch of pink salt
1. Wash and paper dry chickens. Blot inside the body cavity too, getting the bird as dry as you can inside and out. This step is important to archive the crispiness later on.
2. Place it breast side up and with chef knife or kitchen scissors slide down the middle of breastbone and separate the rib cage. Be careful, watch video for this step.
3. Then turn over, cover with a plastic wrap and flatten it with a meat pounder. Flip and do it again, be gentle for the bird should remain in one piece with the same thickness.
4. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and khmeli-Sunelion both sides of each bird, then drizzle with olive oil. Move the hens to platters, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit for at least 20 minutes. Room temperature is ok or the refrigerator but for a longer period. They can stay in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Allowing for a longer time to marinate the birds increases the intensity of the spices producing an exceptional final product.
5. Preheat your cast iron pans on medium heat, add one tablespoon of cold butter to each pan, wait until butter melts, then add your chicken but be sure to place it away from yourself to prevent the hot butter from splashing on your skin. Place a press on each bird and reduce to low heat and cook for 10 minutes. Do keep eye on the birds while cooking.
6. Meanwhile make the sauce. First, grate the garlic and add to the tomato sauce along with a pinch of salt. Next, whisk all together and set aside.
7. Flip your hens and place the presses back onto the birds and leave for 5 minutes. Next, pour your tomato-based sauce on top of the hens. Cover again with the presses and cook for another 5-8 minutes. The total cooking time should be 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your birds, so do check them using a kitchen thermometer for doneness. The temperature should be 165F.
8. Move your hens to a serving platter and include the sauce that accumulated in the pan during cooking. Let the birds rest for a minute or so while you are making the sauce for serving, which is totally optional. Since I served with plain boiled baby potatoes, this sauce was a perfect vehicle to pull together the potatoes with the super flavorful juicy hens. To make the sauce, take cream fraiche and add parsley and grated garlic (grate using a lemon zester). Whisk all together with a pinch of salt. Pour into a serving bowl.
I hope you'll make this recipe soon. If you do, please tag me #innichka_chef on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.