The recipe: Classic Georgian “pressed” chicken with walnut and beet sauces
Why I tried it: I felt there seemed something so crossroads-y about having to have both walnut and beet sauces – Eastern European and Middle Eastern at the same time. Also, I felt, there was cause to hope that the “pressing” of the chicken would lead to crisp skin. And what wouldn’t I do for crisp skin?!
Why I loved it: The slow, weighted “frying” did lead to crisp skin, and it was simple enough that I’d be able to remember that next time without a recipe. But it was the sauces that really lit my chandelier. I kept going back and forth between the two, trying one, and then the other, and then both, in a glorious state of indecision. Yes, it’s a little bit of a bother to make two sauces. But it’s so very worth it! If it’s any consolation, you can skip the tomato wedges. They’re just there for show, as far as I’m concerned.
Estimated preparation time: 1 hour for the sauces (if you haven’t peeled, roasted and grated the beets ahead of time), 1 hour for the chicken. You might be able to overlap some of the sauce and chicken preps, if you’re thinking ahead, so it could just about be done in 90 minutes.
1 cup walnuts
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot paprika
2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
Up to 1 cup water
In a blender, combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, paprika, and 2 teaspoons of the vinegar. With the motor running, slowly add the water, stopping when the sauce is the consistency of thick cream. It should be thinner than mayonnaise but thicker than a rich broth. Taste and season with the remaining teaspoon vinegar and coriander, if needed, and with salt. Set aside.
2 beets, boiled or roasted, peeled and finely grated.
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive or walnut oil
2 tablespoons cider or rice vinegar
3/4 cup sour cream, or 6 tablespoons each plain yogurt and creme fraiche
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill before serving.
6 pounds chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 or 3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 scant cup water or stock
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced and squeezed dry
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges and lightly salted
1. Place a very large saute pan (big enough to hold all of the chicken with a little space left over) over medium-low heat and add the butter (dividing it if using 2 pans). While the butter melts, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
2. When the butter is nice and foamy, place the chicken pieces, bone side down, in the pan(s). Cover just the meat, not the pan, with parchment paper, and place a second pan on top of the parchment. Fill the top pan with water (or a weight to press the chicken down, and then “fry” slowly for 25 minutes. Remove the top pan(s), being careful not to slosh any water into the cooking pan(s), flip the pieces over skin side down, and replace the parchment and the top pan(s) and the weight. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes to crisp the skin and finish cooking the meat.
3. When the chicken pieces are ready, pull them out of the pan(s), put them on a large platter, and keep them warm. Add the garlic and water to the pan juices (dividing them if using 2 pans), increase the heat to high, and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom(s), until reduced by two-thirds. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. Spoon the pan sauce over the chicken and place the tomato wedges here and there around the platter. Serve the walnut and beet sauces on the side.
Reprinted with permission from Cindy’s Supper Club © 2012 by Cindy Pawlcyn, 10 Speed Press.