After reading an excellent article from the New Yorker on the increasingly popular cuisine of Georgia–that is, the country situated at the rich confluence of Europe and Asia, not the Southern state–I was dying to try out something from the region myself. One of the first recipes I came across was a basic one for chicken in a sour cream sauce–a classic dish in Georgia. I was pleasantly surprised; the recipe felt homey and familiar in spite of my never having had exposure to Georgian food, since my own family’s Latvian recipes also make frequent use of sour cream. After doing some research on what seasonings and ingredients are central to the country’s food culture (think of toasty, fragrant spices like fenugreek and coriander, the subtle herbaceousness of savory, and the delicately anise-y verve of tarragon), I amped up the basic recipe to represent what I hoped would be an intense representation of the country’s flavors. The end result was tender pieces of chicken in a creamy, aromatic sauce that has complexity and nuance like nothing I’ve ever tasted. The spice blend is my own, using what I already have in my own pantry and garden, but it takes inspiration from the traditional Georgian spice blend khmeli suneli. The dish is finished off with walnuts, which are not only omnipresent in Georgian cuisine, but also give this particular dish an additional richness and depth of flavor.
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
3 TBSP ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp green coriander (ground)
1 tsp dried parsley
1 ½ tsp savory
1 tsp fenugreek (ground)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup all purpose flour (as much as needed to evenly coat the chicken and onions)
1½ cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup sour cream
A small handful of tarragon leaves, finely chopped
Chopped walnuts, for garnish
Generously sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Heat the ghee in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides, then remove to a platter and cover; set aside.
Add the onion to the skillet and lower the heat to just below medium; season with salt, pepper, green coriander, parsley, savory, and fenugreek and cook for about ten minutes, until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.
Add the chicken back to the pan and sprinkle evenly with the flour to coat. Stir, cooking for about two minutes to cook out the raw flour taste, then add the chicken stock a little at a time, continuously stirring, until the chicken is just about covered. Bring to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the sour cream and tarragon and serve, topped with the chopped walnuts.