Pureeing pieces of bread with toasted walnuts and broth ensures a lush and creamy Turkish sauce for chicken.
Chicken in Turkish Walnut Sauce
SERVES 4 FAST
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Circassian chicken is a dish of tender poached chicken served in a creamy walnut sauce and drizzled with chile or olive oil. It is commonly prepared on special occasions in Turkey and is often served at room temperature as a meze with wedges of pita bread. We were intrigued by its rich, nutty flavors and decided to develop our own version. We started with the chicken. Our favorite was boneless, skinless chicken breasts; they were easier to shred without any skin and bones in the way, and they cooked more quickly than bone-in, skin-on chicken. Looking for the right cooking method, we found our answer in a half-sautéing and half-poaching method. We browned the breasts on one side only, turned them, poured in some chicken broth, then gently simmered them until they were done. The broth that remained after cooking came into play not only to facilitate pureeing but also to add depth and chicken-y flavor to the sauce. This dish is mostly about the sauce, and we found that toasted walnuts added a deep nuttiness to it. The simple combination of sautéed onion and garlic, spiced with paprika for complexity and cayenne for a little heat, perfectly complemented the nuts. To give the sauce the right viscosity, we borrowed a traditional Turkish technique of pureeing bread with the other ingredients. A sprinkle of parsley and a bit of extra oil were the perfect simple garnish. This dish is commonly served at room temperature. To serve hot, transfer the sauce and chicken mixture to a large skillet and reheat over medium heat. Serve with fresh warm pitas.
4 (4- to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 cups chicken broth
1 onion, chopped fine
4 teaspoons paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1. Pound thicker ends of chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to uniform ½-inch thickness. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place chicken in skillet and cook until golden brown on first side, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken, add broth, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 8 minutes.
2. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks. Transfer chicken to large bowl and set aside. Strain and reserve broth, discarding white foam.
3. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, garlic, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Process onion mixture, bread, walnuts, and 2½ cups reserved broth in food processor until smooth, about 20 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Adjust sauce consistency with remaining reserved broth as needed. (Sauce should be slightly thicker than heavy cream.) Add sauce to chicken and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer chicken to serving platter, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with extra oil. Serve.