Circassian Chicken: Turkish Poached Chicken with Walnut Sauce

This is a classic Turkish dish found on buffet tables for special occasions. It is served cold as an appetizer. The chicken first is poached[ and then tossed with a sauce made from crushed walnuts and the poaching liquid.]

Total Time:
1 hr
25 min
35 min

6 to 8 servings

  • 4 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 4 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 whole chicken breasts on the bone with the skin, about 3 pounds
  • 1 carrot, cut into pieces
  • 1 rib celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • Parsley stems
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 8 ounces lightly toasted walnuts (about 2 cups)
  • Chopped parsley leaves, garnish
  • Sliced Turkish bread, or pita bread, accompaniment

In a small saucepan, gently heat the walnut oil with 4 teaspoons of the paprika. Remove from the heat and let infuse.

In a medium pot, place the chicken, carrots, celery, half of the onion, the garlic clove, bay leaves, parsley stems and peppercorns. Cover with water by 1 to 2 inches (about 1 quart) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Strain the stock into a clean container and let cool.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred or chop into pieces.

In a small bowl, soak the bread with enough stock to soften. Let sit for 2 minutes then squeeze dry and tear into pieces.

Chop the remaining onion half.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons paprika, and the cayenne and gently cook, stirring, until aromatic and soft but not colored, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a food processor, grind the walnuts. Add the onion mixture, bread pieces and enough of the reserved stock to blend, about 1 cup. Process to make a smooth paste, adding additional stock 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, toss the chicken pieces with half of the sauce to coat. Place on a decorative platter and spread the rest of the sauce over the top.

Drizzle with the paprika-infused walnut oil and garnish with parsley. Serve at room temperature with bread.

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    Recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine