My Citizens! I hope you will join Me in remembering the past and those whose lives were tragically stolen from them on this day of 9/11. My childhood friend Jonathan Uman was one of the dead, and I still mourn his passing every year and it is in his name that I post today’s recipe. Chakhokhbili is truly beloved in My culinary homeland – the proud country of Georgia and is a dish that has evolved over the centuries to include a beloved South American fruit (long thought poisonous), a spicy treat from the Amazon and a jungle fowl from Laos – yet it defines the very spirit of the country!
Originally made with strictly local ingredients such as mountain pheasant, walnuts, garlic and local spices, over time chakhokhbili came to include foreign imports such as tomato (the fruit thought to be poisonous from South America), chili peppers and domesticated chicken in place of the hard-to-catch wild pheasant.
Today, chakhokhbili is a tasty stew consisting of chicken, tomatoes and fresh herbs – but I am bringing it back to its original roots, as the name for the dish itself is derived from the Georgian term ‘khokhobi’, which means ‘pheasant’. It is critical to realize what has occurred with the loss of pheasant in this classic Georgian dish – using chicken has literally eviscerated the Georgian soul out of this recipe! Why? To demonstrate My point, I give you the story of the legendary founding of Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia!
According to the legend, the king of ancient Iberia, Vakhtang I Gorgasali, once hunted in the forests near the first capital of Georgia – Mtskheta. After some time, he saw a pheasant, then shot and killed the bird. The king sent his falcon to find the prey. The falcon flew away, and after a while, the king lost sight of him. In search of the birds, Vakhtang Gorgasali with his hunters came upon the source and saw that both the falcon and the pheasant were in its waters – which turned out to be hot!
Amazed with this find, Vakhtang I decided to found a new city on this very location, realizing the important advantage any city founded there might have against his enemies. Thus, according to legend, the city of Tbilisi was founded. The word ‘Tbilisi’ is in fact translated from the Georgian as ‘warm’ – thus, removing pheasant from such a quintessentially Georgian meal is literally stealing its Georgian soul and the origin of the Capital!
THIS CANNOT STAND!!!
Thus, I cannot stress how important it is to try this dish at least once (preferably EVERY) time with pheasant as opposed to chicken! The ancestral spirits of proud Georgians past (and TFD Himself!) shall smile from on high and bless your house unto ten generations for your respect of Georgian culture and history – and I shall share with you now a video of Georgian celebratory dancing for your decision!
If that failed to move you – your soul is truly dead and gone and you have nothing but My profound pity, Citizen! Truly Georgians are a people of passion, honor and martial prowess second-to-none, at least IMHO!
Before diving into the recipe – longtime TFD Citizens are familiar with Georgian cuisine, but for those new to My glory – allow Me to educate you on its bold and delicious character and unique provenance! (Georgian: ქართული სამზარეულო, romanized: kartuli samzareulo) is a traditional cuisine of Georgia and every region of Georgia has its own distinct style of food preparation. Eating and drinking are important parts of Georgian culture.
Georgia was one of the countries on the Silk Road, which resulted in travelers influencing Georgian cuisine. The Georgian love of family and friends is one of the reasons why the supra (tablecloth) is so important in Georgia. Supra is offered spontaneously to relatives, friends or guests. Every supra has its tamada (toastmaster), who gives the toast and entertains the guests.
As exhaustively noted in this (excerpted) article found on winesgeorgia.com:
The foods and flavors of Georgia reflect the country’s geographic setting—what food writer Darra Goldstein calls a “Shangri-la of bounty, tucked away in mountain valleys and fertile lowlands.”
Despite its seemingly remote location, Georgia once occupied a much more well-known place in the world. For centuries, it served as a stop on East–West trade routes. As traders passed through, the Georgians borrowed and assimilated the flavors and aromas of visitors’ culinary traditions.
Centuries of foreign invaders also left their mark on the local cuisine. Georgian dishes now incorporate flavors and influences from the foods of Iran, Asia, Turkey, and the Mediterranean. And over time, each Georgian region has developed its own distinctive contributions to the country’s culinary identity.
Traditional Georgian cuisine combines fresh meats, fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices into distinctly flavorful dishes that are considered among the healthiest in the world. Whether prepared for a celebratory supra or for an everyday meal, Georgian cuisine always finds its most authentic expression at home, among friends.
The supra is a traditional, often extravagant, Georgian meal that occupies the center of Georgian social life. Far more than a celebratory feast, it’s a tradition for the ages, a religious rite, and a national identity all in one. For all of life’s celebrations—births and birthdays, homecomings and anniversaries, weddings and funerals—there’s a supra.
The supra gets its name from the Georgian word for tablecloth—the space the feast’s dishes will cover. During a supra, food and wine are seemingly endless, and the plates pile up several deep to ensure that the table is full.
Though parts of the meal will vary from family to family and some elements differ depending on the occasion for a particular feast, many supra traditions are universal. Those rituals have formed a shared Georgian community, identity, and spirituality over generations.
Perhaps the most essential ritual is the presence of a tamada, or toastmaster, who leads the toasts around which the supra feast revolves.
A skilled tamada effectively evokes the spirit of shared community and culture, which for many Georgians has deep associations with wine. The tamada begins every supra with a trio of toasts—first to the motherland, then to God, then those in the room considered closest to divine: the guests. Georgian culture values hospitality above all, with guests seen as heaven-sent gifts deserving great honor.
As the feast unfolds, so do the toasts. Each round begins with a toast by the tamada, who empties his glass. Guests follow suit, often answering with toasts of their own in keeping with the theme of the round. Meanwhile, courses of food appear, each more substantial than the one before—herb salads, bread with spreads, khachapuri (cheese bread), roasted meats, vegetables, sweets—until the table is piled high with plates.
More than simply a feast, the supra fosters deep connections among those who break bread together. It cultivates an intimacy that knits them to one another and to the generations who have feasted and toasted and celebrated before them.
Fresh herbs. Purple basil, coriander, dill, fennel, mint, summer savory, tarragon, parsley, garlic, and chili are often eaten as a salad to cleanse the palate at the beginning of a meal. Purslane, wild garlic, and beet greens are typically used in cooking.
Dried herbs. Georgian cooks use many dried herbs, including barberry, bay leaf, caraway, cardamom, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fenugreek, and pepper. Dried marigold substitutes for saffron in Georgian cuisine.
Oils. Georgian cuisine is known for its use of ground walnuts as a key ingredient. Traditional recipes also call for walnut oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil.
Pickles. Every Georgian table—and every marketplace—makes room for delicious pickled garlic heads, green tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and jonjoli, a dish made with pickled sprouts from a local shrub.
Breads and pastries. Traditional Georgian breads vary in shape are made from a variety of grains, but most—including tonis puri and shotis puri—are baked flat in large, rounded ovens. Mchadi (cornbread), chvishtari (cheesy cornbread) and ghomi (a porridge similar to polenta) are traditional breads made with corn. Lobiani is a bread filled with kidney beans, fried onions, and spices.
Vegetable dishes. Meals start with cold appetizers and vegetable dishes, including ajapsandali (eggplant stew), spiced kidney beans, green beans with yogurt, pkhali (chopped cooked vegetables mixed with walnuts and herbs, formed into balls, and topped with pomegranate seeds), and soko ketsze (cheese-filled mushrooms baked with butter in clay dishes).
Cheeses. Georgians enjoy a wide range of cheeses, the most common of which are Sulguni and Imeruli, moderately salty cow’s milk cheeses with an elastic texture. Sheep’s milk cheeses are also common, including the pungent Guda, as well as smoked cheeses from the mountain regions. In addition to the popular khachapuri bread, Georgians make several traditional dishes with cheese, including nadughi, a thin disk of Sulguni cheese filled with cottage cheese and mint.
Though it’s as important in Georgian cuisine as in European, cheese plays a different role on the Georgian table. Rather than being served as a snack or dessert, Georgian cheese is frequently a part of hot dishes. And it can be boiled in milk, roasted on a spit, fried in oil, baked in pastry, or flavored with oil and spices to add dimension to first and second courses.
Soups and stews. Most common in homes and rural restaurants, Georgia’s rustic soups can be as thick as stews or casseroles. They include chrianteli (cold fruit soup), chikhirtma (lemon chicken soup), kharcho (meat and vegetable soup), and matsoni soup (soup made with tart yogurt and herbs). Perhaps the most popular soup is khashi, a garlicky soup made with tripe, bread, and milk—best known as a hangover cure.
Meat. Meats factor heavily in Georgian cuisine, with lamb, beef, poultry, and pork prepared in a variety of stews, roasts, and grilled dishes.
Fish. Apart from areas near the Black Sea, Georgia’s fresh fish selection is limited to farmed trout, salmon, sturgeon, and small river fish. In restaurants, fish is prepared simply—gilled or roasted with lemon or a classic Georgian walnut sauce or pomegranate sauce.
Sweets. Georgian sweet dishes are a welcome way to end any meal. They include gozinaki (a crunchy honey-nut bar), churchkhela (candle-shaped walnut or hazelnut candy), kada (butter cookies), and pelamushi, also known as tatara (pudding made of grape juice and cornmeal).
I, the Hetman of History, have seen fit to return to the recipe roots and bring back pheasant into chakhokhbili, where it rightfully belongs! Yes, you can of course use chicken if you are so inclined. However, if you’ve never tried pheasant – it is FAR superior to chicken, IMHO. The flavor, the texture of the meat, all of it just works for me – and you can easily buy top-quality whole pheasant from this fine provider – or, if you must, please use a top-quality free-range and organic chicken of equivalent size. Walnuts are integral to this dish – so don’t skimp, these are the finest quality I know of!
Surprisingly (at least to Me) is the fact that the recipes for chakhokhbili do not seem to include the classic Georgian spice blend known as khmeli suneli – I have rectified this error in judgment! My recipe at the link is stellar, but you can also buy a decent khmeli suneli commercial blend here if you prefer to use a lesser (but acceptable) product in My recipe! Most chakhokhbili recipes call for pedestrian tomato sauce or paste. I strongly recommend instead using the classic Georgian tomato condiment satsebeli – this Hunter’s style version is perfect for the recipe (or use My recipe instead).
This pheasant fricassee of spice, character and savor is truly proof there is a kind and loving Deity – I hope you see fit to try this special dish at your earliest convenience, My Citizens – it is not a difficult dish to make or to master! Given how most poultry fricassee recipes leave me ice-cold with loathing (I’m not fond of its bland nature and usually pedestrian character), this is what fricassee ASPIRES to achieve and I am confident you will concur with my assessment once you try this Georgian recipe treasure! All My Georgian recipes may be found here, BTW!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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