Coquelet à la géorgienne

Georgian chicken1

Chicken with walnut sauce

This recipe entered my culinary repertoire thanks to several years spent in the former Soviet Union — and two cookbooks. The first is a vintage trilingual recipe book from the republic of Georgia. The second is Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen, whose recipe I’ve adapted over the years.

I like to make this dish with the small chicken known in France as the coquelet, which may be difficult to find elsewhere. Not to worry. A cornish game hen or full-size chicken will work equally well. Simply adjust the roasting time according to the size of your bird. One coquelet or cornish game hen will serve 2 people. One chicken can serve 4-6.

The real star of this recipe is the walnut sauce. It may be made ahead of time, but remove it from the fridge at least an hour before serving to allow it to return to room temperature.

For maximum flavor, grind the coriander seeds just before beginning the recipe. I do this in a coffee grinder — simple and quick.

1 chicken, or 2 coquelets or cornish game hen
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-1/2 tsp. freshly ground coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100 g.) walnut pieces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup homemade chicken broth
1 lemon
1 small cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Cut (or have your butcher cut) the chicken into 4-6 pieces or the smaller birds into 4 pieces each (2 per person).

In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, 2 tsp. ground coriander seeds and 1 clove of garlic, finely minced. Grind in some black pepper. Add the poultry pieces and stir well with a wooden spoon to coat all the pieces with the sauce. Set aside to marinate.

Now make the walnut sauce. Grind the walnuts in a food processor with the remaining two cloves of garlic and the cilantro. This will make a kind of paste.

Transfer to a bowl and add the broth (it should be slightly warm or at room temperature, neither cold nor hot). Stir. Squeeze the lemon through a sieve over the bowl. Stir again.

Add the remaining 1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds. Using a paper towel to protect your hands, crush the cayenne pepper and add to the bowl. Add the salt and taste. Adjust the seasonings as necessary. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 220 C). The oven should be very hot before you begin roasting the poultry — this allows it to cook tandoori-style so that it will be crisp on the outside and tender within.

Oil a roasting pan, preferable ceramic or glass. Add the chicken pieces. When the oven is ready, begin roasting. Count on about 40 minutes for chicken and 25 minutes for the smaller birds.

Test the poultry for doneness by inserting a fork into a thick part of the meat. If the juices run red, return to the oven for 5 minutes. If the juices run clear, remove from oven.

Transfer to a serving platter, spoon about half of the walnut sauce over the birds and serve immediately, accompanied by vegetables, a grain and/or a salad. Bring the additional sauce to the table. Serves 4.


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