Turkish Chicken in Walnut Sauce (Circassian Chicken)

Most versions of this legendary dish are served cold as part of a meze. The dish of poached and shredded chicken bathed in a rich, smooth, beige-colored walnut sauce is old…like Ottoman Empire old. In Amman, Jordan, the dish has always been pre-cooked and served warm. Note that it will become exceptionally clear why this dish is called “legendary” after the first bite.

Circassian Chicken – Turkish Chicken in Walnut Sauce

The moist chunks of poached chicken are bathed in a smooth and creamy walnut sauce and garnished with a fragrant and spicy red-tinted oil. If possible, prepare a few days in advance to intensify the flavors even more. It can be served as a cold as a dip with warm pita bread for a meze or warm (not hot) as a main course with rice pilaf.
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Course: Brunch, Lunch, Main Course, Meze
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Turkey
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Large pot or casserole
  • Large skillet
  • Food Processor or blender
  • Small nonstick frying pan
  • small saucepan
  • Serving platter with sides

Ingredients

  • 3 lb Cut-up chicken
  • 1 large Onion, sliced
  • 3 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch Saffron
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • ¼ cup All-purpose flour
  • Pinch Ground allspice
  • 2 cups Walnuts
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper or cayenne
  • 1 tbsp Walnut oil (or vegetable oil)

Instructions

  • Wash chicken pieces and pat dry. Heat oil in large skillet and cook onions over medium heat until soft. Add 2 tsp minced garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and saffron. Mix in chicken and cover with 1½ quarts of water. Simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Let chicken cool in broth before straining broth into a bowl. Separate chicken meat from bone and skin. Break pieces into small bite size chunks. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a bowl with remaining tsp minced garlic and 1 cup strained broth to keep warm.
  • In a non-stick skillet, toast flour over medium heat stirring constantly. When it turns a light beige color, add paprika and allspice. Cook 30 seconds more and remove from heat.
  • In a food processor, grind the seasoned flour and walnuts to a paste. Drizzle in 1 cup strained broth to make a smooth sauce. Process in 1 more cup of broth.
  • Scrape walnut sauce into a skillet and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain chicken pieces and arrange in one layer in an oven-proof serving dish. Mix in 1 cup of walnut sauce and lemon juice. Thin remaining sauce slightly and pour over the chicken. Let mixture cool completely then place in refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 days before serving.
  • To serve, remove from refrigerator an hour-or-two in advance. Right before serving, heat 1 tbsp walnut oil in a very small saucepan. When shimmering, add ¼ tsp Aleppo or cayenne pepper and swirl to combine. Remove from heat and let pepper settle. Warm casserole slightly in a microwave, drizzle top with red oil, and serve with warm pita bread.

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