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Georgian Chicken Walnut Satsivi

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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.

Chicken Satsivi
For 6
Three medium sized chicken
Seasoning for the chicken stock (2 onions, 2 bay leaves, woody herbs of your choice such a marjoram, oregano, thyme, parsley stalks, leeks, some dehydrated chicken stock, salt)
1.5k kilogram shelled walnuts
6-15 garlic cloves depending on your taste
Paprika, black pepper, coriander seeds, oriental cumin, fenugreek seeds or blue fenugreek leaves, cinammon
Vinegar or pomegranate juice to the taste

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.

2 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 large stick cinammon, 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds (or blue fenugreek leaves if you find them), 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp cumin seeds and blitz or grind to a fine powder...

... 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.



  • #1
  • Comment by Lisa
FX I cannot say how happy I am to see you back and blogging your culinary adventures!
I must say I missed your work, very informative and varied. Thank you and happy food days
Lisa =)
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Lisa!

  • #3
  • Comment by Evan
Francois, I cannot adequately express how glad I am that you have decided to start posting again.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Evan!

  • #5
  • Comment by JD
My heart swelled when I saw FXCuisine was back posting articles. Welcome back!

What else could I use in a day to day kitchen to replace the torching of the meat if I don't have a Butane torch or pizza oven?
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot! Well this is just the way I cook the chicken but you could either just leave the chicken as it comes out of its bath (with or without the skin) or roast it in a traditional way, or just poach it then use your electric oven at the highest setting to give the skin some color. But a butane torch must cost 5 bucks in any hardware store and is plenty fun to use!

  • #7
  • Comment by Joan
I live in a rural town in Florida and do not have access to fenugreek leaves and the more exotic spices you use.  Can you recommend a site where I could order them online?  I sure have missed your posts, I remembering watching your very first and very entertaining videos.  
  • FX's answer→ Hello Joan, thank you for your kind words!
    Well the blue fenugreek leaves (trigonella caerulea) I have not found myself, although it is used in Switzerland to make Schabziger. But regular fenugreek, coriander seeds, cumin etc... you may probably find on Amazon, Ebay and probably a number of specialized Internet spice shops. Shopping for arcane ingredients is easier these days!

  • #9
  • Comment by Danielle
This looks delicious - I love nuts and nutty sauces! I am interested in exploring Georgian cuisine - I have explored some Armenian dishes, but I have not crossed the border yet. Have you tried the recipe with pomegranate juice instead of vinegar? Noticeable differences or is it subtle?
  • FX's answer→ I have tried a number of ways, the pomegranate is a bit less sour. Yes Armenian cuisine very attractive too! Last week end I did pork khorovats on hot embers.

  • #11
  • Comment by Siri Gottlieb
I'm so happy you are back with your kitchen wilt and wisdom, François! What an interesting and unique recipe. I always learn something from you!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Siri!

  • #13
  • Comment by timtom
Thanks for the appetizing recipe. I'm curious, what's the brand & make of your "space age" mixer?

Also I had absolutely no idea Schabziger included blue fenugreek leaves!! Je mourrai moins bête.
  • FX's answer→ Ah but Tom there can be only one - the indomitable Swiss Pacojet. Please check with your cardiologist before you look it up as the price is out of this world, I had to sell a kidney. As for blue fenugreek in German it's actually called Schabzigerklee! By eating this cheese you might "mourir moins bête" but altogether sooner!

  • #15
  • Comment by Anna
Indeed, it is a pleasant surprise to see this note in my mailbox.
Glad to see you back.
Best wishes,
  • FX's answer→ Well Anna this is entirely my pleasure!

Good to have you back!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Rick!

  • #19
  • Comment by David Hewitt
Francois, my heart jumped when I saw the email from you a week or so ago - like a blast from a long loved but slightly forgotten corner of my mind.

Now, you go tempt with with some beloved Georgian food!  I just spent 3 years living in Tbilisi so am well acquainted with the delights of the cuisine, from the basic staple items like shoti bread to stomach bombs like Chicken Chkmeruli.

I'm looking forward to your future endeavours!

Great to have you back :-)
  • FX's answer→ David thanks a lot! I am most interested in any information you might have about lesser known or just very tasty Georgian specialties!

  • #21
  • Comment by Beatrice
Francois, we have missed you sorely.  There is no site with such interesting and varied tastes and experiences.  I look forward to seeing you continue to entertain, to tempt, and to educate.

  • FX's answer→ Very kind words Beatrice, thanks!

  • #23
  • Comment by celso
François! So glad to see you back! I saw a e-mail from fx-cuisine and even found that it was a scam... so happy to see again one of the finest food experiences of the whole of the internet!
  • FX's answer→ No scam no spam but genuine, unadulterated quality vintage FXcuisine!

  • #25
  • Comment by Paul Beckwith
Dear Francois - how wonderful to have you back blogging. As always your writing brings a huge smile to my face and some big chuckles. I have sent your post on to Meriwether and Tasman who will enjoy it just as much as me.

Paul B
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Paul, I thought about you today with the chicken drumsticks you cooked once up there you know where! Hope you are well. Regards to the kids formerly known as M. and T. (they go by their initials these days)

  • #27
  • Comment by HazelStone
So pleased to have you back, you old nut roaster!
  • FX's answer→ Yes, that I am, between other things!

  • #29
  • Comment by Karima
OMG, you are back!! Hooray :-)
  • FX's answer→ Indeed I am, and more articles are on the way!

Oh my gosh, Francois, I am so pleased to see you again! You sure have been missed:) And just look at what you're preparing for us, a delicious looking Georgian Chicken meal. It looks fantabulous! Thank you so much for sharing, FX, looking forward to your next post of deliciousness!  
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot! Glad you remembered me!

Let me join the Hallelujah chorus in welcoming your exceptional blogging back to life.
I did a double take when I saw your post in my mailbox. Let the journey begin anew.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks! FXcuisine is reborn

  • #35
  • Comment by T
FX when was that saffron post? Its been years no? I am SO GLAD you're back! You have the most interesting, high-quality, and diverse blog! I am so happy to lay my eyes on a new post again. Welcome back!!!
  • FX's answer→ Ah thanks but there are now 4 new articles and counting!

  • #37
  • Comment by Mia
You're back!!!!!  Hooray!  Yours was the first food blog I ever fell in love with. Might even be planning a trip to Switzerland in the next couple years based purely on some of your cheese posts.
  • FX's answer→ Mia, thanks for your devotion!

  • #39
  • Comment by dnaclock
I thought you were dead, I remember you mentioned once something about your cardiologist not being happy with your eating habits and after you were gone for a solid year I could've sworn you were dead and gone, I am so happy to see you back and hoping for more and more recipes, and hoping one of those recipes holds VERY spicy ingredients! Cheers!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks! No I've never been less dead actually, and my cardiologist retired saying that in 40 years of practice he had never seen such a well-fed and healthy individual! I am growing lots of chili peppers from seed so they will eventually end up in the plate do not worry.

  • #41
  • Comment by Charulie
Wow!  How do I sign up to get regular updates and recipes?  This recipe sounds like my kind of dish.  Thank you!
  • FX's answer→ Ah well, my email list, my RSS feed or Twitter are three ways.

  • #43
  • Comment by Charulie
Never mind...I realized I had already signed up.  So excited to look around at other recipes!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, there are over 250 old articles if you want to dig! Use the keywords to retrieve filtered view.

  • #45
  • Comment by Art
So glad to see you back posting again Francois! Yours was always my favorite food blog. Now I must start saving for a Pacojet!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Art! More about the Pacojet some time... a worthy investment but unreasonably expensive.

  • #47
  • Comment by Rick Oppegaard
The walnuts are toasted and ground, the spices are blitzed in the coffee grinder, I have the chicken going in the clay pot so now I just need to find my torch under the pile of tools in my shop! I'm making Khachapuri to accompany this dish....
  • FX's answer→ Great to hear Rick! I got your picture with the blowtorch, very convincing. It is actually better than putting them in the wood fired oven as the blowtorch only applies the heat where it is needed - on the skin.

  • #49
  • Comment by Frank
Francois,  It's about time you've come back!!  I do hope your  time has been good to you and yours. I hope your endeavours have been enjoyable.  I still, after all these many years show my grandsons your posts.  Good to see you here and hope we can get more of your beautiful photography and recipes!


Frank - Illinois, U.S.

  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Frank, yes I have been cooking and researching food and testing recipes the whole time so now I'm a better cook and lots of things to show and explain. Very proud to hear that you found some of my articles good enough to show your grandsons.

Francois, I can only image how wonderfully spiced and nutty that sauce must taste. Yum!
  • FX's answer→ Cynthia, imagine no more and start cooking!

  • #53
  • Comment by Laura
I'm so, so happy you're back with your stunning photographs and delicious recipes, François. I missed you a lot, and I almost forgot how beautiful your pictures are.

Thanks for returning to us!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Laura!

  • #55
  • Comment by Stephen
How appropriate that FXCuisine has risen again during this Easter season!  Thrilled to have you back :-)
  • FX's answer→ Yes risen he hath, and today one vegetarian recipe for Good Friday!

What a mangificent recipe, FX. You'll have to forgive me for following trends but Georgian wine has become an obsession of mine recently, and I can't think of a finer accompaniment than this.

On the subject of nut roasting, I now tend to roast in the more even heat of the microwave (my spouse insists: for me,it must earn it's keep for the inordinate amount of counter space it takes up) for far shorter times. My chances of burning has been greatly reduced even if I must roast in batches and I find it gives much the same result. Have you tried it?
  • FX's answer→ Thanks this is a great tip, I never thought of roasting nut in a microwave! But I don't have one anymore unfortunately. I'll try at my Dad's

  • #59
  • Comment by Angelo
I don't like walnuts, can I substitute almonds or cashews?
  • FX's answer→ Angelo, I think that with roasted almonds you should obtain a different but really interesting dish. Let me know if you try.

  • #61
  • Comment by Laura Marie
So nice to have you back!

Is this dish related to fesenjan, an Iranian chicken dish that has a walnut and pomengranate sauce?  I think of the latter as being somehow sticky (that's not the right word exactly, sorry) and rather sweet. It looks quite similar, but fesenjan sauce is darker.   Have you ever tried it?
  • FX's answer→ Yes Laura Marie persian fesenjan is an upcoming article, photos ready! I think they are distant cousins with one common ancestor (the crushed walnuts) but very different in taste.

I will give this a go this weekend.

And by the way, the classic, one-for-the-history-books-line: "Chicken to sink, sink to towel, towel to hand, hand to dessert, dessert to guests, guest to hospital - cook on the hook - game over" :)
  • FX's answer→ Thanks and good luck!

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