Georgian Chicken Walnut SatsiviHome >> Recipes
Text-only version printed fromhttp://FXcuisine.com/default.asp?Display=257
Cult recipe with the mighty bazhe sauce based on pounded roasted walnuts, garlic and pomegranate juice. Not for the faint of heart but delicious and utterly memorable!
I am fascinated with the originality of Georgian cuisine. Despite being squeezed between major world cultures (Persia, Turkey and Russia) it is rich with a huge array of unique dishes using ingredients I love - especially walnuts.
Satsivi is one of Georgian's cuisine most famous dishes. It is very unique in its heavy use of walnuts in a sour sauce called bazhe that you can also use with vegetables and fish and serve cold or warm. Here is how I do it - very traditional with no personal twist, but using a modernist approach to cooking the chicken.
Place your chickens in a pot...
...then add some stock ...
... spices, onions, laurel leaves, parsley stalks or other herbs you may have on hand.
Please consider that poaching chicken at a low temperature is one of the most satisfying ways of enjoying this kind of meat. We have grown used to eating stone-dry, overcooked chicken, because some government boffins imposed to cook it at 72C (165F). Sure, 2 seconds at this high temperature is enough to kill all bugs, but muscular fibers contract and squeeze most of the juice out of the meat. There is no putting that juice back into the chicken. Food science shows that instead you can heat the meat to a lower temperature but hold it longer. Much better. All you need is to keep your chicken between 60C and 63C for about 2 hours and it will be pasteurized, absolutely safe to eat, and so juicy that you'll think it's a different meat altogether. You do not need to trust me on this - read one of Nathan Myrrhvold's many excellent articles on this.
I put my pot in a combi oven but you can also use an immersion circulator bought online, these days these things go for less than the price of a good pot.
And please do not wash the raw chicken lest you spread campilobacter all around your kitchen sink and make everybody sick for 3 days by a chain of secondary transfers. Chicken to sink, sink to towel, towel to hand, hand to dessert, dessert to guests, guest to hospital - cook on the hook - game over.
Meanwhile, let us roast some walnuts for the sauce. Roasting transforms the walnut taste in a way not entirely dissimilar to roasting meat or coffee beans. This is an analogy but you'll see the difference. Now roasting nuts of any kind is a most tricky business as they seem to hang around in the oven for 10 minutes without changing color, then suddendly burn on you in a matter of minutes. I recommend trying about 185C for 15 minutes and not leaving the oven during the last 5-7 minutes. Most ovens are not very precise and are way hotter in some corners, so do diligently check.
How many pounds of charred walnuts have I hung around my neck like an albatros, to remind people that watched walnuts roast slower, then burn as soon your turn your back for 60 seconds? This happens even to an old nut roaster like myself. There is no justice in the kitchen.
To make a paste out of these walnuts I used to grind them in a mortar. Now I use an atom-age mixer but try to keep them relatively coarse. My mixer grinds down to 3 microns but somehow an ultra-smooth roasted walnut butter is less appealing to me than something coarser. Some Georgians like it one way, some another. Nobody should tell you how you should like your walnuts but yourself.
chop the onions and sauté until soft ...
...then pour in the ground roasted walnuts...
Pause for a moment while you ponder the beauty of what you have in your pot today...and congratulate yourself for reading FXcuisine.
From the chicken pot take a little stock and add the the sauce until you have a paste.
Don't worry we'll adjust the consistency later, all you want at this stage is something that is workable.
Add half the crushed garlic (not shown), mix, taste and decide whether you can add some more garlic without compromising your karma forever.
... and pour them into the sauce. Gradually add the vinegar, mixing thoroughly and tasting as you go as there is no removing too much vinegar.
Add some more chicken stock until you are pleased with the consistency of your sauce.
Now here is our chicken perfectly cooked. Now I need to address the problem of the pale skin as I cook this for the satisfaction of my guests. You could just remove the skin and end up with a lighter meal altogether - after all the sauce packs enough flavor on its own. But uncle Francois has a solution...
You can try to blister and color that chicken skin with the hottest heat you can find. Switzerland having no active volcanoes, I go for my bread oven at 450C - hot enough to twist my heavy steel roasting pan within minutes.
The chicken fat even took fire one day! If you are an engineer type or just not afraid you can do this with a butane lamp at 1500C on the counter (be safe!). The point is to heat the skin fast enough so that the meat remains juicy inside.
You can serve this in a number of ways - here I piled my chicken pieces in the pot where the sauce was waiting.
Serve warm or cold with bread and pkhali - I'll show you how to make both in a later article.