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Flattened Spiced-Herbed Chicken

This recipe appeared on my blog on December 18, but yours truly accidentally deleted it from her dashboard and was never able to retrieve it. Luckily she had a copy on her Azeri-language blog, which she is copy-pasting here, postdate.  All the original comments were gone with the post, so she is also copy-pasting them here manually, one by one, from her email account. Sorry for the inconvenience. Yours truly is disgruntled with her behavior. She says she will be more careful next time. Thank you for understanding.

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I spotted this recipe a while ago on this lovely livejournal with plans to use it one day. The lucky day was yesterday. The recipe comes from Stalik, a famous gourmand who spreads his love for cooking Azerbaijani, Uzbeki and other ethnic dishes among the Russian-speaking community of the ex-Soviet republics.

Flattening meats is a common practice in Azerbaijani cooking tradition. In the old times, flattened pieces of meat were cooked between two large flat river stones set over fire; the piping hot stones would provide the meat with enough heat to cook them through, while allowing their juices and flavors to release to their best. This tradition is still observed in some parts of the country, although usually not inside the homes, but outside, in local restaurants. Any dish cooked pressed between the stones is called dasharasi which means “between-the-stones.” Inside the homes, cooks choose to cook their flattened fare pressed under weights in frying pans and with no less success. Here’s a recipe for a succulent flattened chicken, cooked to a golden perfection, the Azerbaijani way. Enjoy!

Update – December 20: I forgot to mention that flattened chicken cooked under weight on a frying pan and not between the stones is also called tabaka as some of my readers mentioned in their comments. Variations of tabaka are available throughout the Caucasus and other parts of ex-Soviet territory. The word tabaka is believed to derive from tava, which means “frying pan”  in Georgian and in Azeri and maybe in other languages too. Some cookbooks claim the birthplace of tabaka to be Georgian (the Republic of Georgia). I am not arguing with this (love Georgian food, by the way). But as I mentioned earlier,  flattening and cooking chicken, game, and meats under weight is  a common practice in Azerbaijan and as I understand, in many parts of the Caucasus and Central Asia in general.


Flattened Spiced-Herbed Chicken

Adapted from here

Serves about 4

1 medium frying chicken (about 3 pounds/ 1 kg 300 g)  (Use organic chicken for best results. The chicken should not be fatty- the leaner the better) – You can substitute chicken with 2-3 Cornish Hens.
3 tablespoons butter

For the Marinade:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 gloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt
Ground black pepper

To Garnish: – This is optional but makes for a visually appealing presentation

Chopped fresh cilantro
Pomegranate seeds

Wash the chicken and pat dry thoroughly. Cut off the tail. Place the chicken breast side up on a large cutting board. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut down the middle of the breast bone, to separate the breast in half. Make sure the chicken remains in one peace. Now, turn the chicken and press to flatten.

Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl and stir to mix.

Rub the chicken all over with the marinade. Place it on a flat plate, cover with a foil paper and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (the longer the better, you can go as long as overnight).

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a cast-iron pan, wide enough to fit the flattened chicken. Place the chicken in the pan, breast side down. Now, put a weight on top – I usually put a heat-proof plate (invert it) on the chicken to cover it, then I place a pot filled with water on the plate to keep the chicken flat and pressed. You can use whatever heavy weight you think might work in your case.

Fry the chicken on one side over medium heat until it is nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Turn to cook the other side, about another 15  minutes. The chicken should be cooked through with no pink juices running on the inside and should be golden and crispy on the outside.

Transfer the chicken onto a serving plate. Drizzle with pan juices on top. If desired, sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Nush Olsun!

Your Comment

27 Comments
  1. Looks absolutely scrumptious

  2. Looks delicious! It reminds me of Georgian Chicken Tabaka.

  3. OMG! I am from Uzbekistan and absolutely love ??????? ?????a!

  4. Feride, we call this dish “Tabaka” , it is very popular in Uzbekistan and usually it is served with tomato sauce. Yours looks sooo yummy!

  5. O Feride my unique one…it has been a long time. Do you remember me ? I have been following ur blogs avidly but havent made the effort to comment. I also follow u on Facebook. Ur chicken is stupendous…as all ur other recipes. How will it turn out if this is baked in the oven ? Thanks again for ur wonderful blog & Seasons Greetings to u. Do keep in touch. :-)

  6. This looks incredibly delicious! I am so gonna have to try it!

  7. Ummmm, tomorrow I am making roast chicken so I think that I will flatten it just as you did. And that spice marinade may just end up being the one I use :)

  8. yummo! this look great! I am gonna try it for sure…

  9. I’m not a huge chicken fan but this looks great. Thanks for the mini background on Uzbeki food.

  10. Lovely Chicken recipe!! Looks tasty and flavoured :)

  11. COOKER: You can roast it in the oven too. If you choose to do so, press it well on top to flatten nicely, then roast.

  12. Lovely spices and beautiful color. Looks tasty.

  13. Similar to the way chicken is prepared in Lebanese cuisine, but the presentation here is superb!

  14. This chicken looks wonderful and interesting, I made something similar on my blog a little while ago. Apparently, in Italian cuisine, there’s a dish called “pollo al mattone” (chicken cooked under a brick), so instead of a frying pan, I used a foil-wrapped brick to press on the chicken. I would love to try it with your marinade though. Cheers!

  15. i like to flatten my chickens out and grill them nice and slow too.. Congrats on foodbuzz top 9!!

  16. Thank you for all your comments, friends.

  17. “Spatchcock, an old culinary term of Irish origin, is an abbreviation of “dispatch cock,” a phrase used to describe preparing a bird by splitting it down the back, spreading it open like a book, and pressing it flat for easy, faster roasting.” Diane Morgan

    We usually do a chicken on the barbecue this way, without the added weight. It does cook faster and tastes wonderful. We have also done it in the oven, surrounded by the potatoes and vegetables. Yummy!

  18. JACKI: Looks like flattened chicken is another universal thing:) Every culture has its own recipe. This is great! Thanks for the interesting info.

  19. I just discovered this blog and sounds (and looks) good.
    I’m Moroccan travelling a bit all over the world..I have had a flatten chicken in Egypt..It was tasty…it was simple but just tasty..juicy from inside.

    I think I will spend some time reading this blog…and try some azerbaijani food..If you feel like trying Moroccan food, please visit my blog..

  20. I see that some recipes have an arabic/turkish connotation in their name..

  21. Fari, that juicy chicken looks like an unforgettable meal!

    Btw, had some difficulty leaving a comment on the latest entry, so, let me take the opportunity to reiterate my best wishes for a Healthy and Joyful New Year to you and your lovely family!

  22. Hello, I am American girl and I made this recipe for my Azeri boyfriend and his cousin and they absolutely loved it! They love Borsch, so I will making that next and using your recipe! Thanks kindly for your blog. Would you have any suggestions for Christmas? Any traditional meals to prepare as we are planning HUGE Russian/Azeri dinner and some American :) your help would be appreciated.

  23. I have to say my husband asks regularly for this chicken; I love it, too. I have made it so many times since I first saw it on your blog year ago, it has become a staple.
    It is truly a wonderful dish. The flavor is amazing; no boring chicken here.

  24. I’m making it right now! It already smells delicious! Thank you, Farida!