Circassian Chicken

Circassian chicken (chicken with walnut paste)

Barbara Bonisolli / Getty Images

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Refrigeration: 2 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
440 Calories
31g Fat
8g Carbs
34g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 440
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 39%
Saturated Fat 6g 29%
Cholesterol 95mg 32%
Sodium 452mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 34g
Calcium 58mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Circassian chicken, or Çerkez tavuğu (cher-KEZ' TAH'-voo-oo), is a great example of how cooks make fancy, flavorful, and nutritious dishes out of very simple and inexpensive ingredients. Circassian chicken is a rich paste made with crushed walnuts, chicken, and stock thickened with stale bread. It's served cold as an appetizer and makes a great dish for entertaining. It's very satisfying and full of flavor, so a little goes a long way; a spoonful or two with some toasted bread or crackers is actually very filling.

This recipe comes from the Circassians, a tribal people historically inhabiting the stretch of land separating the Black Sea from the Caspian Sea. Today, this area is known as the Caucasus which borders modern Turkey in the northeast. Circassian chicken made its way into Turkish cuisine during the Ottoman period when the Ottoman Empire controlled much of this region. Today, Circassian chicken is an appetizer or meze of choice in Turkey and served to special guests at home or in better restaurants.

Ingredients

  • 1 (5-pound) whole chicken
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion (peeled)
  • 1 large carrot (peeled)
  • 1 pound walnuts
  • 5 slices white bread (stale, crusts removed)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 3 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • Garnish: whole walnut halves
  • Garnish: 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Garnish: 1 tablespoon olive oil

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the chicken in a large saucepan. Fill the pan with water to just cover the chicken. Add the salt, pepper, peeled onion, and whole carrot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Let the chicken simmer slowly until the meat is falling off the bones, about 1 hour.

  3. While the chicken is cooking, crush the walnuts. The traditional way is to crush them between two layers of wax paper using a rolling pin. This allows the natural oil from the walnuts to blend with the mixture for the best flavor and consistency. If you're in a hurry, you can process the walnuts in a food processor to make a fine powder.

  4. Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, keep the pan covered and let it cool down. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the broth and place it on a platter. Remove and discard the onion and carrot; reserve the broth.

  5. Wearing rubber gloves, separate all the meat from the bones, and discard all the bones, skin, and gristle. Then pull the large chunks of meat into small strips.

  6. While the broth is still warm, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Add the stale bread to the broth and break it up with your fingers so there are no large pieces.

  7. Add the crushed walnuts, crushed garlic, and paprika and mix together well. Add the shredded chicken, mix until combined, and adjust the salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

  8. To prepare the dish for serving, spread the mixture in a shallow serving dish. Decorate the top with walnut halves. Mix the paprika with the olive oil and drizzle over the top for the final touch.

  9. Serve and enjoy.