Claudia Roden's Circassian Chicken (Çerkez Tavuğu)

March 5, 2019

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Egyptian-British cookbook author Claudia Roden’s recipe for classic Çerkez Tavuğu, aka Circassian Chicken, is a Genius Recipe in every way. It’s one of the creamiest, most comforting chicken dishes you’ll ever taste, and its construction is quite simple too. Most importantly, it relies on a very unassuming trick to thicken the sauce—nuts. Adapted slightly from A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden (Vintage Books, 1974).Genius Recipes

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 15 min

Ingredients

  • 1 large roasting chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup shelled nuts (walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, or a mixture)
  • 1 cup fine dry white bread crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Wash the chicken and put it in a large saucepan. Cover with water and add the quartered onions, celery stalks, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is tender, skimming off scum as it comes to the surface. Drain the chicken, reserving the stock. Cut the bird into serving pieces, removing the skin if you like, and keep warm.
  2. The sauce is traditionally made with walnuts only, but other nuts and breadcrumbs are often added. Pound the nuts till fine in a mortar or grind them in an electric blender. Strain 2 cups reserved stock into a wide, clean pan, and stir in the nuts and optional bread crumbs. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Low heat is important here or the nuts can burn. Add more stock if it becomes too thick, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix the oil with paprika until it becomes bright red.
  4. Cook the rice with butter according to the package instructions or your favorite method, using some of the reserved chicken stock.
  5. Arrange the chicken pieces in the center of a large serving dish. Surround them with a ring of cooked rice. Pour the nut sauce over both the chicken and the rice, and decorate with a dribble of red oil.
  6. This dish is often served cold, with salads.
  7. Notes: Nik Sharma, who tipped us off to this recipe, likes to fold the chicken into the sauce so it is all coated well before serving, and he sometimes adds a squirt of fresh lemon juice to cut the richness of the sauce. His shortcut version: Prepare the sauce without the chicken, then use store-bought rotisserie chicken. Just remove and discard the skin, shred the chicken and fold it into the sauce.

More Great Recipes:
Middle Eastern|Chicken|Nut|Walnut|Winter|Weeknight Cooking|Weekend Cooking|Dinner|Lunch|Entree

Reviews (6) Questions (1)

6 Reviews

Nancy C. March 20, 2019
This sounds wonderful. I wonder if you could substitute a nut butter (almond, cashew, or hazelnut), or do the nuts need to be coarser? As tonthe spice, Penzey’s has a new Turkish mix out, and I wonder if that would do.
 
Yildirim K. March 21, 2019
Short answer is no. Don't. The secret of this recipe is to extract the oil of walnuts as much as you can. Nut butter will completely alter the texture and taste of the final product.
 
Cindy K. March 9, 2019
Made this for my family. I added more paprika directly to the sauce to give it more color. Some in my family thought it needed some heat otherwise the flavor was good.
 
Yildirim K. March 7, 2019
In Turkish cuisine, Cerkez Tavugu is not served with rice but served on its on as a cold dish. However, to transform it to a main course is not a bad idea. Also, you have to really cover the chicken with the sauce unlike what is shown in the picture.
 
judy March 6, 2019
This looks delicious. I love trying recipes from around the world. Indeed, I have about 60 different individual spices in my fridge. Where folks keep fruits/veggies in their crispers, I keep a lot of my spices, as well as both little shelves in the freezer full of them. Then I can make just about any spice blend for any recipe. Anyway, that was a digression. I would streamline (I have fibromyalgia and I am always streaming recipes as I rarely have enough energy to do a full long prep, though I refuse to use remade products). I would use cut up chicken to begin with. Shorter cooking time with less effort. The rest about the same. I would buy ground or already chopped nuts and just grind a bit more. A bit more explanation about addition of breadcrumbs would be desired. Amount, overall texture of sauce with vs without breadcrumbs. What consistency are we looking for. But I can wing it. This will go on my to try list. Thanks for sharing.
 
Leslie V. March 6, 2019
Judy so sorry for your 'pain'. My Mother suffered for decades until they 'discovered' Fibromyalgia. I have severe Arthritis in the hands and wrist, so short cuts are mandatory. Thinking of Breast meat as we prefer white...in the Insta Pot, for initial cooking. I will use some of your suggestions. thank you. My husband really does not like chicken, but when i camouflage it he is happy.
Will try this soon. And we will eat it as a hot dish, not cold.