There are many cuisines that use this classic method of preparing chicken. In the Russian culture, it is called Tsiplenok Tapaka (“Цыплёнок Тапака”). It is called that way after a type of skillet “tapa”, that the chicken was cooked in – a heavy cast iron skillet with a lid that was used as a press. This method of roasting a chicken places a heavy weight on top of the butterflied chicken creating a crisp roast skin and a succulent, juicy meat.
Yields: 1 chicken
1 whole chicken
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Remove the backbone with kitchen shears. This is very easy to do if you use shears. I wouldn’t recommend using a knife.
Flatten the chicken by pressing firmly on the breast bone. You may also want to cover it with plastic wrap and using a mallet or a heavy skillet flatten the chicken. Tuck the legs into small incisions that you make in the thigh skin.
This step isn’t necessary, but it makes the presentation neat:) Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat 1/2 – 1 Tablespoon of oil in a nonstick or cast iron pan on medium-high heat. (Make sure that it’s large enough to fit the whole chicken.) Add the chicken, breast side down and reduce the temperature to medium. Put a heavy pot on top of the chicken. If you have a brick or two, wrap them in aluminum foil and use that instead of the pot. I added a few large cans of tomatoes to the pot to make it heavier. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 10-15 min.
I love the flavors of garlic, lemon and butter with chicken, but if you add garlic to the skin, it will burn and taste bitter. That’s why I melt the butter and mix in the lemon juice and garlic and pour it over the chicken at this point.
Roast it in the preheated oven for 10-15 min to finish cooking the meat and to crisp up the skin. Most importantly, to add more flavor to the chicken.
When the meat is 165 degrees in the breast and 175 degrees in the thigh meat, the chicken is ready. Let it rest for another 10-15 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute in the chicken.
It’s extremely important to allow the chicken (or any meat) to rest before cutting into it. Otherwise, all the juices will flow out and your bird will be dry and chewy.
I like serving this rustic dish with a side of boiled potatoes and shkvarki (bacon and onions).