Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicken Tabaka with Green Bean Borani

Elizabeth found this recipe for chicken tabaka in the Wall Street Journal, so we decided to try it.  We wish we had a more compelling backstory - kinda like the backstory in the actual article involving bribery and dining behind the Iron Curtain - but we don't.  We needed something to eat for Tuesday dinner, and this dish seemed like a winner without too many new ingredients.

Of course, we could lie to you - after weeks of hiking through the thick jungles of Costa Rica, foraging on berries and tree bark, we finally reached our destination: the long-lost Temple of Viastu.  When we arrived, we walked in the foyer and saw a copy of the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.  In it, we saw the recipe for chicken tabaka and decided to make it when we got home.  Better?

We had never made or even eaten Cornish game hen before, so this was a learning experience for us.  For your convenience, we'll reprint the recipe here (with some modifications) and give our thoughts on the dish afterwards - thanks Wall Street Journal!  (Note: we only used two hens, but we'll post the full recipe that uses 4.)

Chicken Tabaka with Green Bean Borani (adapted from the Wall Street Journal)

First, the Cornish game hens:

4 Cornish game hens
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1. Rinse hens and pat dry.  Place each hen breast-side up on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice down the middle of the breastbone to separate the rib cage.  Flatten hen gently with a meat pounder.

2. With a knife, make a small slit at the lower edge of each breast half.  Push tips of the drumsticks down through slits, one on each side, so knobby ends of drumsticks protrude on hen's underside.  Make similar slits on upper edge of each breast half.  Push wingtips through to other side.  Flatten hen once more.  Repeat with remaining hens.

3. Rub hens with crushed garlic.  Salt hens liberally and dust with cayenne.

4. Heat two 12-inch skillets, preferably cast iron.  Add 2 tablespoons butter to each skillet.  When butter melts, place 2 hens in each skillet, turning them to coat both sides with butter.  Cook hens skin-side up over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then turn skin-side down.

5. Place a plate or another, slightly smaller skillet over each pair of hens.  Weight it down with a heavy can or a bowl filled with water.  Cook hens over medium heat until skin is brown and slightly crusty, 18-20 minutes.  Turn birds, replace the weight and cook 5 more minutes.

While the hens are cooking, make the garlic sauce:

1/2 cup chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
Cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

6. Heat chicken broth in a small saucepan.  With a mortar and pestle, mash garlic with salt into a creamy paste.  Whisk garlic into chicken broth along with paprika and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Set aside.  Just before serving, stir in cilantro.

Finally, it's time for the green bean borani:

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 medium onion, minced
4 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, cilantro, parsley, dill, summer savory)

7. Parboil beans until crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté onion in 3 tbsp. butter until soft but not brown, 5-8 minutes. 

9. Drain beans and chop coarsely (each bean should be in 2 to 3 pieces).  Add beans to onion, along with remaining butter.  Stir in cinnamon and pepper.  Cook, covered, until beans are soft, about 10 minutes.

10. With a mortar and pestle, pound garlic with salt into a paste.  Whip yogurt with 1/4 cup ice water and add it to pounded garlic.  Stir herbs into beans and cook 1 minute more.

11. To serve, turn green bean borani out onto a large platter. Pour yogurt over beans. Place hens on platter and drizzle lightly with garlic sauce. Pass remaining sauce in a pitcher.


Conclusion: Though the whole dish was delicious, the preparation was too time-consuming for a weekday, though we'd be happy to have those green beans at any time.

C & D

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