Circassian Chicken Salad
Not sure where I first heard of this variant on chicken salad, but I’ve been making it for years.
Presumably it originated in the Caucasus Mountains, which is where the Circassians live. I’ve net yet met a Circassian, although I suspect they may be something like an Armenian. Or not. Who knows?
What I do know is that there are plenty of recipes for this dish out there, but what ties them all together are walnuts, garlic, paprika and poached chicken.
This recipe is a great way to get away from typical mayo-based chicken salads, and is wonderful either as a sandwich, or simply served with crusty bread and a pickle or two. Once made, it keeps well in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.
- 1 pound skinless chicken breasts
- 4 tablespoons olive or walnut oil
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts, divided
- 3 chopped garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
- 2 slices of bread, crusts removed
- 1 quart chicken stock
- Salt and black pepper
- The juice of a lemon
1 Poach the chicken breasts: Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the chicken breasts. Add some water if there is not enough liquid to cover the meat. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
2 Heat paprika in olive or walnut oil: Meanwhile, heat the olive or walnut oil in a small pot over low heat and add the paprika. Stir well to combine. Heat until you can smell the aroma of the paprika, then turn off the heat.
3 Soak bread in broth: Tear the bread into chunks and put into a bowl. Ladle out about a cup or two of the chicken broth and pour it over the bread.
4 Make walnut paste: Put one cup of the walnuts into a food processor. Add the garlic, the cayenne, about a teaspoon of salt, 1 Tbsp of the parsley and the soaked bread. Pulse to make a thick, relatively chunky paste.
If it needs a bit more chicken broth to loosen up, add some a tablespoon at a time.
Stir the paprika-oil, then pour it into the food processor and buzz to combine. Add salt to taste.
5 Assemble the salad: Tear the chicken breasts into shreds. Put it in the bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, the green onions and 1 Tbsp of parsley.
Add the walnut-paprika paste from the food processor to the bowl and stir gently to combine everything thoroughly. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.