This post was originally published on July 15, 2009 and is now updated. I have added a recipe video and tweaked the recipe for best results.
When I was a kid, together with my relatives who live on the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia, we took a trip to Lagodekhi in the neighboring country. I remember falling in love with the lush green surroundings, a clean univermag (Soviet-style shopping mall), and the cobbled streets of downtown, but, alas, my food recollection from that time is scarce, except, I do remember we bought some pastries and ate them back home.
However, luckily, I am familiar with Georgian cuisine through the food I sampled at Georgian restaurants in Baku, a famous Georgian street food, khachapuri, sold in every corner of my city when I was growing up, and through just being neighbors with Georgians, sharing the beautiful Caucasus.
Georgian-Style Chicken with Tomatoes and Herbs, or Chakhokhbili, is a perfect representation of the Georgian cuisine, in which fresh pairs with robust to yield a concoction of incredible flavors and vibrant colors. Here, chicken is simmered down with a generous amount of fried onions and ripe tomatoes, a plentiful of fresh herbs, garlic, and a pinch of khneli-suneli, a pungent Georgiain spice mix that makes this dish truly Georgian. The cooked dish has a thick stew-like consistency and is perfect served with chunks of freshly baked crusty bread for dunking straight into the tomato sauce.
My very first try of this dish was with the recipe I found in Darra Goldstein’s book The Georgian Feast and it yielded great results. However, I’ve tweaked this recipe so many times every time I tried it and now, I have finally arrived at the version I am sticking to. I’ve added Georgian spice mix to the recipe, and also changed how the onion is cooked, and came up with the method to make a paste from garlic and cilantro to drizzle onto the dish. So, may I present to you my own no-fail recipe for Georgian khachokhbili today? Please try it and let me know what you think in the comments. I am super curious!
WATCH HOW TO MAKE GEORGIAN-STYLE CHICKEN WITH TOMATOES AND HERBS:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced (should equal 4 cups sliced onions)
- One 3-pound (1½ kg) chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- 6 medium ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I do not peel them, but feel free to peel)
- Ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Georgian spice mix, khmeli-suneli (skip if you don't have it)
- 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- Generous 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (you can also add other herbs: parsley, tarragon basil, dill)
- ⅛ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or chili pepper (adjust to taste)
- Melt the butter in a large, tall frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil (this will prevent the butter from burning). Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is light golden, about 10 minutes. Scoop out the onion and place on a plate, leaving the oil in the pan.
- Brown the chicken pieces on both sides in the same pan, turning once, about 3 minutes per side, or until a light golden crust forms.
- Add the onion and tomatoes to the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the spice mix.
- Cover the pan and cook the dish over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. Uncover the last 10 minutes and cook more.
- Meanwhile, crush the garlic and most of the cilantro (reserve some for garnish) together in a mortar and pestle until you obtain a paste.
- Turn off the heat. Add the cilantro-garlic paste to the chicken, stir to coat. Sprinkle with hot pepper to taste.
- Let stand 5 minutes, covered, before serving. Sprinkle with the reserved fresh cilantro.
- Serve with chunks of fresh, crusty bread.