What We’re Cooking This Week: Chicken Thighs With Georgian-Style Walnut Sauce

Georgians eat walnuts in lots of different dishes, most often combined with garlic or onion and flavored with dried marigold petals and a type of blue fenugreek unique to the region.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Sitting along the old Silk Road between eastern Europe and western Asia, Georgia’s food has been influenced by every expanding empire from the Romans to the Mongols to the Ottomans to the Soviets. But the one constant over the last few thousand years is the walnut. Fossils found in the Caucuses contain the nuts, and culinary historians think walnuts are the oldest-known cultivated food in the region.

Georgians eat walnuts in lots of different dishes, most often combined with garlic or onion and flavored with dried marigold petals and a type of blue fenugreek unique to the region. I’ve dropped those hard-to-find ingredients for my version of this simple sauce, but you could use the more common yellow fenugreek and add a pinch of ground turmeric to emulate the marigolds.

The original, called bazhe (pronounced, according to the Georgian ladies making it on Youtube, bah-szha) is often served with roasted chicken (and if you don’t want to cook the thighs, get a rotisserie bird). But it’s just as good with other meats and roasted vegetables. If you’ve got some caramelized onion, the rest is easy; just combine everything in the food processor and blitz.

Recipe

4-6 bone-in chicken thighs

2 teaspoons kosher-style sea salt

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon kosher-style sea salt

2 cups raw walnuts

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons ground coriander seed

1 teaspoon ground red pepper or crushed red chile flakes

1 cup water, plus more as needed

Sprinkle the thighs with salt (use about ½ teaspoon per thigh). Heat a heavy skillet, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and cook the thighs, skin side down, until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Flip them over and cook in a 350F oven until done, another 15-25 minutes.

Cook the onion in the olive oil and salt over medium heat until very soft and dark, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then combine it with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until smooth, adding more water a spoonful at a time until it has the consistency of a thick gravy. Serve some with the chicken thighs and store the rest in the refrigerator for up to a week.