Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs 45 mins
This is one of my favorite ways of having Cornish Game Hens. Georgians (Russian, NOT USA) have a special flair for cooking chicken. They grill or roast them (with delicately spiced walnut sauces); they fry them under a press; and they stew them with a sauce of herbs, tomatoes, and lemon juice. All of these methods make the serving of chicken in Russia memoriable. The name tapaka comes from the heavy iron skillet (tapa) with its weighted lid, under which the marinated chicken is flattened and then fried. This forms a crisp, golden crust. This recipe makes one serving so increase the ingredients to accomodate as many guests as you may have.
For the Cornish Hens
- 1 3⁄4 lbs Cornish hens, well rinsed and patted dry
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 pinch sweet Hungarian paprika
- salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
For the Garnishes and Accompaniment
- romaine lettuce leaf (or Boston)
- red onion ring
- red radish
- cherry tomatoes
For the Sour Plum sauce
- 1 1⁄2 lbs unripe fresh prunes
- 3⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 5 large garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1⁄4-1⁄2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice (to taste)
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- With a meat cleaver, poultry shears, or a VERY sharp knife, split open the breast of the Cornish Hen. Carefully remove the breastbone. Cover the hen with waxed paper and pound the flat side of the cleaver or a meat tenderizer to flatten.
- Combine the garlic, lemon juice, paprika, and about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Rub over the hen and refrigerate, covered for at least two hours or as long as overnight.
- Heat the clarified butter in a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
- Brush the garlic off the hen, then place the hen in the skillet, skin side down. Cover the hen directly with something flat (such as an ovenproof plate) and place a heavy object (such as a brick, a smaller iron skillet, or a pan filled with water) on top so the hen is firmly pressed down.
- Cook until the skin is deep golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Turn the bird, re-weight, and cook on the other side for about 15 minutes. Pierce a thigh with a skewer. the hen is ready when the juices run clear.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce, garnished with the fresh vegetables, and accompanied with the Sour Plum Sauce on the side.
- For the Sour Plum Sauce:.
- In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine the prunes and enough cold water to barely cover. bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the prunes are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Drain the prunes, then pit and put them through a food mill. Return the prunes to the saucepan. Add the cilantro, garlic, coriander seeds, fenugreek, red pepper flakes to taste, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and salt. bring to a boil and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Yaste and add more lemon juice, if desired.
- Cool the sauce to room temperature and transfer to a sterilized 1 quart jar. Top with the oil. seal. and refrigerate. The sauce should stand for at least 4 to 6 hours before serving. The sauce will keep for up to two months in the refrigerator. This makes about 3 cups.