Chicken in Sage Walnut Sauce

December 30, 2011
Author Notes

This is a take on the Turkish Dish “Circassian Chicken.” It is essentially poached chicken in a walnut sauce. I've made the version from the Best International Recipe cookbook several times, and have tweaked it a bit by using smoked paprika and sage to enhance the earthy-nutty flavor of the walnuts. It's classically served at room temperature, but I prefer it warm. Make sure to use fresh, good quality nuts for this dish. The fried sage and smoked paprika oil garnish are optional, but they nicely enhance the presentation with their vibrant and contrasting colors. —hardlikearmour

  • Serves 3 to 4
  • For the Chicken and Sauce
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock or a 14.5-oz can of low-sodium chicken broth plus 1/4 cup water
  • Several sprigs of fresh sage – each containing 5 or 6 leaves
  • 2 ½-inch thick slices of white sandwich bread
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • ½ Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted
  • Fried sage leaves and smoked paprika oil to garnish (see below)
  • For the Fried Sage Leaves and Smoked Paprika Oil:
  • ¼ cup light olive oil (or walnut oil)
  • 4 medium-large sage leaves
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
In This Recipe
  1. For the Chicken and Sauce
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a 10-inch skillet. Blot chicken with paper towels to dry, then season it with salt and pepper. When the olive oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook until it is light brown on the bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, then add the chicken broth and a sprig of sage. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the skillet. Cook until chicken is just cooked through (160 to 165º F in the thickest part of the breast), about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the breasts.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, remove the crusts from the sandwich bread. Tear each slice of bread into 6 or 8 pieces, and place the pieces in a bowl. Slice enough of the remaining sage leaves crosswise into thin ribbons to measure 1 ½ tablespoons (lightly packed). Combine the sliced sage, minced garlic, paprika, cayenne, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Once the chicken is done remove it to a plate, and cover it with foil. Strain and reserve the broth. Wipe out the skillet.
  5. Add ½ cup broth to the bowl with the torn bread, and set aside.
  6. Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet, and heat over medium until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sage, garlic, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and salt. Cook while stirring until fragrant about 60 seconds. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Remove from heat.
  7. Combine the onion mixture, bread, walnuts, and juices that have accumulated on the plate with the chicken breasts in the food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add more broth if needed for a consistency like slightly coarse but thin yogurt or thick heavy cream.
  8. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine the sauce and chicken. If needed, reheat over medium in your skillet (if it's deep enough) or a suitably sized saucepan. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional cayenne. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika oil and crumble the fried sage leaves over the dish before serving if desired. Serve with pita or crusty bread.
  1. For the Fried Sage Leaves and Smoked Paprika Oil:
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the sage leaves and fry until they have turned dark green and crisp. Carefully remove the sage leaves, and drain on paper towels. Add the smoked paprika to the oil, and stir for 1 minute. Remove the oil from the heat and allow the paprika to steep for another 2 minutes. Strain the oil through a coffee filter into a small bowl. Discard the filter. The oil can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

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I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.