This is a dish attributed to the Circassians, a Turkic people originally from the area of Russia to the east of the Black Sea, who had or have communities in a couple of Russian republics as well as in Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria. This rich and elegant preparation is made by the Turks and the Armenians and is called çerkez tavuğu (Circassian chicken) in Turkish.
I think, this cool crecipe in a creamy walnut sauce supposedly got its name because its color resembles the pale complexions of the Circassian beauties in the sultan’s harem.
For 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients for Circassian Chicken
- One 4-pound chicken Broth
- 1 medium-size onion, cut up
- 1 leek (white and green parts), washed well and Chopped
- 1 large carrot, sliced into rounds
- 6 cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- 10 black peppercorns
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
For Walnut Sauce
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) walnuts, chopped
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
- Two 1 ½ -inch-thick slices French or Italian bread, crusts removed
- ½ cup milk
- Leaves from 1 small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- About 20 fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
How to make Circassian Chicken
- Make the broth. Put the chicken in a large stockpot with the broth ingredients and enough water to almost cover the chicken. Bring the water to a very gentle boil, reduce the heat so the water is only shimmering, cover partially, and poach until the chicken legs and wings look like they could fall off, about 1 hour. It is important that the broth never come to a hard boil, otherwise the chicken meat will become tough. Remove the chicken from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, pull off all the meat, discarding all the skin, fat, and bones. Shred the meat into thin strips by pulling it apart with a fork.
- Meanwhile, increase the heat to high under the broth and reduce for 20 minutes. Check the seasoning of the broth and strain.
- Make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, grind the walnuts and garlic together into a paste. Soak the bread in the milk, then squeeze the liquid out in your hands as if you were making a snowball. Add the bread to the food processor and process until homogenous, scraping down the sides when necessary. Transfer the walnut mixture to a large bowl and dilute it with spoonfuls of broth until it has a mayonnaise consistency, using about 1 ½ cups of broth in all. Add the chicken and coriander leaves, mix well, and bind together with a few more tablespoons of the broth and as many teaspoons of walnut oil as necessary until the entire mixture has a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make the garnishes. Combine the walnut oil, paprika, and cayenne and stir. Transfer the chicken to an oval serving platter and decorate the top with the chopped walnuts and the perimeter of the platter with coriander leaves; drizzle the top with the flavored walnut oil.
- The Circassian Chicken has cooked and is ready to be served, Serve at room temperature with warm French bread, Naan or Arab flatbread.
I hope you enjoy this classical recipe.