Garlicky Cornish Game Hens (Tabaka)

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This style of cooking chicken originated in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and was widely popular throughout the former Soviet Union.  It is obvious why it was popular since it produces a very flavorful tender chicken

This is a modification of a recipe in The Guardian newspaper in the UK, from a book entitled Mumushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Beyond.  The key modifications were to use Rock Cornish Game Hens (one hen to serve two people), instead of the smaller chickens called poussins (one hen for each person) in the original recipe, using olive oil rather than sunflower oil (since olive oil is tastier) and using the herbs which I had available in my garden.

To serve 2 persons:

1 Rock Cornish Game Hen

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. Kosher salt

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs (summer savory, basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, etc.)

Frying pan

Baking parchment – cut into a circle the size of the frying pan

Weight to compress the hen


Spatchcock the game hen by cutting down the backbone, flipping it cut side down, and pressing the hen into a flattened even package. Mix together salt and cayenne and rub it evenly over the hen. Also rub in the garlic.

Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat. Fry the hen cut side down for about 3 minutes, flip to be skin side down, and continue to fry over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Turn the pan down to the lowest setting, put the baking parchment over the pan, and put a weight on top to compress the hen. The objective is to have a package of even thickness with a lot of contact with the frying pan to have it cook and brown evenly. Cook slowly for 20-30 minutes until the hen is cooked, as evidenced by the juices running clear and the legs moving freely.  Here is what the cooked hen will look like when flipped to bone side down.


Place the cooked hen on a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Add the herbs to the pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Cut the hen in half for two plates, and drizzle with the pan sauce with its butter, garlic, and herbs.  Enjoy with some good bread to soak up the juices.  Most recently I used freshly grilled flatbread.

Grilled Flatbread


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