Chkmeruli – Georgian Garlic and Walnut Chicken
In my recent trip to Sakartvelo, also known as Georgia, the country not one of the 50 states, I was introduced to so many dishes from different regions; by the end of our travel, my head started to spin from foreign names. It also might be from all the Qvevri wine and chacha generously poured by our hosts, but who counts your drinks in Georgia. Regardless of our drinking schedule, for four days, I did my best to remember the nuances, and soak up all the smells and flavors to later recreate them when I get home. Now I’m on a crazy cooking marathon and make at least one Georgian dish a day. Of course, I adopt some ingredients to California realities and sometimes go with my instincts and change the recipe to my liking. But I genuinely believe that the core of those dishes is still Georgian. Sometimes I even think I lived my previous life somewhere in Tbilisi. I can totally see myself walking on those bustling streets, stopping for some churchkhela and a glass of homemade wine.
Since it finally feels like autumn, I decided to share a very warming and comforting chicken dish – Chkmeruli, also known as Garlic Chicken. It takes very little effort to prepare, but in the end, you get a very impressive meal that’s so good to share with your friends and family. In Georgia, Chkmeruli sauce is usually made with just milk and garlic, but I added some walnuts to make it even heartier and gutsy. Make sure to serve enough of bread so people can indulge in that thick and luscious sauce. Hopefully, Georgians will not be offended by my cooking experiments.
I recommend serving this chicken with a full-bodied white wine. In Georgia, it’s usually Mtsvane, but beautiful Burgundy or nice California Chardonnay will do the trick.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3-pound chicken drums and thighs
- 1 tablespoon sunflower, or vegetable oil
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon ajika sauce, or harissa (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Georgia khmeli suneli spice bland (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced mint
- In a big, shallow bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper.
- In a large skillet, heat the butter and vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Working in batches, lightly dredge the chicken in flour and shake off the excess. Fry over medium-high heat for approximately 7 minutes; turn and fry for another 7 minutes. Cover the skillet with a lid and continue cooking over low heat for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the garlic and walnuts until you get a wet sand-like texture.
- When the chicken is tender and cooked all the way through, transfer it to a platter. Add the ground walnut mix to the pan and pour the milk. Season to taste with all the spices, add salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan, mix well with the sauce. Add the chopped mint and simmer covered for 4 more minutes.