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December 22, 2022. Dear Kids– Every year, which would be just two years, since I started this blog, I like to share my favorite recipe from all the recipes developed by another source that I’ve cooked over the year. Last year, it was this Smarty Pants, Veggie Veggie Parm Parm, Dump Casserole, certainly a mouthful, but a tasty mouthful at that. This year, that dubious honor goes to my version of the Georgian Chicken with Walnut-Cilantro Sauce found in the Milk Streets: Tuesday Nights cookbook— an ultra crispy batch of chicken thighs in a tart, earthy and creamy sauce that’s easy to make ironically vegan, but with such a depth of flavor you would never believe it.
When you think of a chicken recipe from Georgia, you probably think of crispy, southern fried chicken, but this recipe, while it is crispy, is not from the US state of Georgia- it’s from the country of Georgia, located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and a former Soviet republic.
I don’t think I would have ever even tried such and “unusual to me” recipe, but I just happen to come across it when my niece just happened to be visiting Georgia, so I thought it would be fun to make it while she was there. I didn’t know what to expect, having no experience with pomegranate molasses (Spoiler Alert- it’s hauntingly tart and literally mouth watering) and wondered what a savory walnut sauce would add to the dish, but once I tasted it all together, I realized it was the sauce that brought the dish to an entirely new and outstanding level.
Just to be sure I had it right, I made this recipe for said niece while she was visiting our home and, in a recent groundbreaking and exclusive DDD interview, she describes it as “comparable”. When pressed further, she also described it as “delicious”. So there you have it- not only “comparable”, but “delicious” according to our family Georgian cuisine authority! Since then, this Georgian Chicken has been requested by one of you “I almost never eat meat unless it’s really worth it” kids for your Birthday Dinner (“Best chicken you even made”) and you also insisted I make if for your sibling when you were both home for the holidays.
This is a great dinner, paired with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour cabbage (I even have a Bonus InstaRecipe for the cabbage in The Lecture), with a power packed sauce that couldn’t be easier to make (just a blender!), to enjoy many times over this winter season whenever you want a satisfying plate of food to get you a little closer to spring.
Diet: Omnivore, Vegan Option
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 6-8 chicken thighs, 3-4 pounds trimmed of excess fat flaps
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander- grind your own from coriander seeds, it’s better
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
The EZ Sauce
- 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth and perhaps a bit more to thin sauce
- 1/2 cup cilantro or flat leaf parsley- a bit more for garnish
- 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, toasted- a bit more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses- a bit more for garnish
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, trimmed and seeded
- 2 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
COOK AND PLAY
Play “Nine Million Bicycles” by Katie Melua, a singer and songwriter, who moved to the UK (Belfast, NI) from Georgia at the age of eight and became the UK’s best-selling female artist, as well as Europe’s highest selling European female artist, and get that chicken crispy.
1. Dry Brine. For best flavor, up to 24 hours ahead of cooking, season chicken all over (even under skin) with coriander and salt. Cover and refrigerate until time to cook.
2. The E-Z Sauce. Add E-Z Sauce Ingredients to a blender and puree to a smooth sauce- add more broth if needed to get a creamy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
3. Start The Crisp. Set up middle oven rack to 450°. Place a large, oven-safe, tall sided skillet or enameled cast iron braiser over medium high heat and add canola oil. Place chicken thighs, skin side down and sear, adjusting heat as needed to keep a sizzle, until breathtakingly golden brown- 5-8 minutes. Flip to briefly cook other side- a few minutes more. Remove chicken to a single layer on a baking sheet or platter and pour off chicken fat from the pan.
4. Tasty Bits. Stir remaining broth into chicken pan, using a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, which means scraping the tasty brown chicken bits from the pan’s bottom into the broth. Add sauce to the pan and place chicken on top with skin up & above sauce- wipe any sauce on side of pan above sauce line off or it will burn bitter and be hard to clean. Roast chicken in oven, uncovered, until the internal temperature of the chicken is 175°, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Make It Pop. Remove chicken from oven to heat-proof surface and top with with minced cilantro, toasted walnuts, drizzles of pomegranate molasses and, if you’re in the mood, pomegranate seeds. Serve with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour cabbage.
An Ode To Crispy Chicken, Turkey, Fish, etc Skin. “Oh crispy skin, oh crispy skin you are amazing”! Sure, I’m not much of a poet, but I am a decent cook and accomplished eater and I have to tell you, the taste and texture of crispy skin can’t be beat- unless you’re one who doesn’t eat meat (Whoa, maybe I am a poet!).
Crispy skin is a case of heat and moisture management, so keep the following in mind as you crisp:
1.) Pat away any moisture from the skin with a paper towel before it goes on the heat;
2.) Preheat pan over medium high heat*, adjusting heat as need to crisp, making sure not to burn, the skin– using most of your senses to see (charred bits in pan), hear (no sizzle, no sear/too much sizzle too much heat) and smell (burnt toast aroma) trouble:
3.) Avoid premature flipping– let the skin stay on the heat long enough to form a crust and it will lift up with little or no resistance- too soon and the skin will rip off the meat, stay stuck to the pan and make you sad; and
4.) Keep skin away from moisture of any sauce– this recipe keeps the skin above the sauce. If a braising recipe calls for skin to be cooked in a sauce- even if pre-crisped in a pan, it will turn soft, flabby and be best discarded, so keep skin above any braising liquid whenever you can. If you can’t, but can easily remove the skin- remove the skin to store in the fridge to be crisped up (on a baking sheet in 350° oven) just before serving. While I’m at it, let me tell you how I also don’t like recipes that pour a sauce over crispy skin- like Buffalo wings, Sesame Chicken, Bang Bang Shrimp, etc.- too obliterate the crisp you worked so hard to achieve. What to do? Simple- serve the sauce on the side.
*Note. Some start skin, particularly duck skin, which as a thick layer of fat under the skin, in a cold pan, increasing the heat gradually, so the skin doesn’t burn before the fat is “rendered out” (cooked off into pan). You may want to try it if you ever cook duck (will you really, though?), but I don’t think that’s necessary otherwise.
Pomegranate Molasses. The ingredient that really shines in this recipe is the pomegranate molasses, which was something I’ve always had in my cupboard, but never seemed to use. I’d buy it, liking the sound of it, but throw it out, unopened, when we moved. For some reason, I would still replace it soon after we got settled and then discarded it once again, unopened, with the next move and so on- that was about a half dozen or so bottles! That was until I finally used it the first time I cooked this recipe. Since then, I’ve actually used an entire bottle and then some, realizing what its depth of sour and bit of sweet could do to enhance many things- sweet and savory.
So, what is pomegranate molasses you ask? It’s a tantalizing, more sour than sweet, syrup of simmered down pomegranate juice, typically with a bit of sugar added. It’s popular in Middle Eastern cuisine (remember Georgia borders the Middle East) and it can be compared to a balsamic vinegar glaze (something that has also often languished in my cupboard), but with more of a satisfying, savory bite IMHO.
The Sauce Is The Boss. This has to be one of the best sauces in terms of flavor payback for the amount of work you put into it! I mean, you’re just tossing stuff (no knife skills required) into a blender and pressing buttons or turning dials. As for the flavor- the earthy creaminess the walnuts add is sublime and the bracing tartness from the pomegranate molasses, with the heat of the peppers, is a welcomed counterpunch to the palate.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage InstaRecipe. Place a large pot (that has a cover you will use later) over medium heat and sauté a thinly sliced yellow onion with a pinch or two of kosher salt until golden brown. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and stir until combined. Add a cored and thinly sliced, small red cabbage (about 3 pounds), cover and stir from time to time, adjusting heat as needed, until tender crisp. If all the cabbage won’t fit into the pot, add what fits and then, after that cabbage cooks down, add the rest. Taste and adjust vinegar and/or salt as you wish.
Vegan Option. Once you swap in veggie broth for the chicken broth in the sauce, this has to be one of the most flavorful and easiest vegan sauces out there- I mean it. After you whip that up, in no time at all, just serve it with your favorite plant chicken alternative- I think some crispy tofu, with ground coriander in the flour coating would be nice- mashed potatoes and the sweet and sour cabbage.
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