Georgia on my Mind

Okay, the headline is a ridiculous cliche but my hiking trip to Georgia was another extraordinary experience in which I once again demonstrated that I am a horrible, but enthusiastic, hiker. Georgia is unbelievably beautiful and Georgian food is justifiably renowned — all of the best restaurants in the former Soviet Union were Georgian. Გემრიელად მიირთვით (That’s bon appetit in Georgian).

Turkey Satsivi

The garlic walnut sauce which accompanies this turkey dish was a favorite of Russian dictator (and Georgia’s native son) Joseph Stalin. It’s ridiculously labor-intensive, but delicious. This recipe is from Food52.

3 to 3-1/2 pounds turkey, cut into portions

4 sprigs of parsley

1 bay leaves

3 tablespoons butter

3 large onions, finely chopped

3 tablespoons flour

4-6 cups stock (reserved from cooking turkey)

3-1/2 cups raw walnuts

10 cloves of garlic

1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 small dry chili

pepper and salt to taste

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Put turkey in a pot, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, skim the foam that rises to the surface, reduce heat, add 1/2 tbsp salt, a few sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. If using turkey with bones and skin, remove from stock, place in a roasting pan, and put in 350 degree oven to roast for about 15 minutes or so. Set aside.

Chop onions. Melt butter in a skillet over low-medium heat. Saute onions until very soft, but still lightly yellow. Stir frequently to prevent browning and burning.

While onions are cooking, combine walnuts, garlic, cilantro and all spices and salt in a blender. Add about 1 cup of stock from cooking chicken and process into a paste. If too coarse to process, add a bit more stock as needed. Add flour to the cooked onions, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the skillet. When all flour becomes translucent and coats the onions well, add 2-3 cups of stock. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with wooden spoon, and stir well, until smooth. Heat through and allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes, until onions are almost dissolved.

Add walnut paste to the skillet, stir very well, adding more stock if needed, until the sauce is about buttermilk consistency and smooth, simmer for 2-3 minutes or so after bringing to a boil. Return the sauce to the blender and process yet again to get silky texture. This step is optional, if you like creamier texture.

Pour the sauce back into the skillet (no heat). Mix egg yolks with a little bit of the sauce, and slowly pour back into skillet. Stir well. Add vinegar, stir and let set for a few minutes.Taste the sauce and adjust salt if necessary.

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