Iron Chicken. Garlicky Georgian poussin

This is the most popular Georgian dish outside Georgia. Young chickens were spatch -cocked and traditionally cooked on special tapa skillets, weighed down with a brick. In Hungary apparently they call it ‘iron chicken’. Imagine if you can, those hefty vintage irons adorning frying pans all over Budapest, sweet garlicky smells penetrating multi-storey blocks of flats. Olia Hercules’ garlicky poussin recipe smells so good as it’s cooking that you think the flavour couldn’t possibly live up to expectations. In fact, it exceeds them. 
This was the first dish her mother taught her. It is very  easy to burn it. The trick is to keep the hob on the lowest setting. As for the weights, not having the speciality skillets,I pressed the chicken down with two sets of weights from my mothers scales,but failing that a couple of heavy cans would suffice. 
If the butter burns in the pan when cooking the chicken, melt a little fresh butter in a clean pan, then stir in the herbs before drizzling over the cooked poussins.The poussins are best served straightaway, but you could prepare them up to 48 hours in advance, keep them in a sealed container in the fridge, then serve cold in a salad.
Garlicky Georgian poussins
Serves 2
Italian: Galletto
French: Poussin
German: Stubenküken
Spanish: Polluelo

2 free-range poussins
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ tsp cayenne pepper
40g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh dill
Get your butcher to spatchcock the chickens.If not, spatchcock each poussin by cutting it along the backbone (just to one side) with a knife or kitchen scissors. Open out the birds, then flatten with the palm of your hand. Rub the skin with grated garlic, then season generously all over with salt and the cayenne pepper.
Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy-based skillet or frying pan. Cook the poussins, cut-side down, over a medium heat for 3 minutes, then flip them over and cook skin-side down for 5 minutes.
Lower the heat and put a cartouche (circle of baking paper, cut to fit the pan) over the birds, then a smaller frying pan on top. Weigh it down with something heavy (see tip).
Cook for 20-25 minutes over the lowest possible heat. To test if the poussins are cooked, pull at the legs – they should start to come away easily and the juices should run clear.
When the birds are done, lift them out and rest on a chopping board for 5 minutes. Add the herbs to the buttery juices, season to taste and cook for 1-2 minutes more (see tip).
Serve the poussins drizzled with the herby juices. Mop up the juices with some good bread.


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