Turkish Meze – Circassian Chicken Recipe
This Turkish meze recipe is an absolute delight. Chicken is poached in an aromatic liquid and combined with a paprika-laced walnut sauce. Circassian chicken is a delicious addition to any meze spread or perfect for a party appetizer.
Origins of Turkish Meze
Meze refers to appetizers traditionally eaten in a leisurely fashion, accompanied by good friends and drink. It’s a fun way to try lots of little bites of different dishes, and can either be a full meal, or just the beginning of a meal. While visiting Turkey, I have discovered many new dishes by just pointing to the displays of meze dishes and asking to try them. My command of the Turkish language is rusty, at best. Lucky for me, I’ll eat just about anything. Circassian chicken has a delicate flavor, with texture brought by the walnuts, and color from the paprika.
Using Up Old Bread
Circassian chicken is a great way to use up old bread. Handmade artisan bread is making a comeback these days, and slices from a 2-3 day old loaf is perfect to use in this recipe. The bread acts as a thickening agent for the walnut sauce combined with the cooked chicken.
What to Serve with Circassian Chicken
More Turkish meze dishes that would be delicious to serve alongside this recipe include muhammara, marinated mushrooms, zucchini hummus, hard-boiled eggs with garlic and parsley, and Manchego grilled cheese toasts. Circassian chicken is also delicious on its own for lunch, atop a piece of bread or toast. It’s sometimes referred to as “Turkish chicken salad”. Don’t forget the pickles!
Turkish Meze: Circassian Chicken Recipe
For the Chicken
- 1 small onion
- 2 carrots
- 10 cups water
- 8 peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs parsley
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 5 pound chicken or bone-in chicken pieces
For the Walnut Sauce
- 3 cups walnuts
- 4-5 slices baguette
- cooking liquid from chicken
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspon fine sea salt
For the Paprika Oil
- 3 Tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons paprika
To Cook Chicken
- Roughly chop onion and carrots. Combine in a large pot with water, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add chicken (whole is fine), and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until just cooked.
- Remove from heat, let the chicken cool in the cooking liquid. Once cool enough to handle, remove the chicken meat from the bones, and shred or dice into small pieces. Place in a large bowl. Reserve the bones for another use (freezing to make more stock in the future is a great idea!). Strain cooking liquid and set aside for walnut sauce.
To Make Walnut Sauce
- Process walnuts in food processor until finely chopped. Soak bread in a small amount of chicken cooking liquid. Add to food processor, along with garlic, paprika, coriander, and salt. Process until incorporated. Add enough cooking liquid (chicken stock) until the sauce becomes a pour-able consistency. Taste for salt, and adjust if needed.
To Make Paprika Oil
- Warm oil and paprika together in a small pot over medium flame.
To Assemble Dish
- Combine walnut sauce with the chicken pieces in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Place in a serving dish, and pour paprika oil over the top. Garnish with walnut pieces, if desired.