This juicy fried chicken with creamy garlic sauce is inspired by the famous Georgian chkmeruli recipe. This dish is dairy-free, paleo and Whole30 friendly.
Earlier this month I made an overdue visit to my birth country, Ukraine. Besides family catch-ups and seeing my childhood friends, I was also very excited to eat some of my favourite Ukrainian dishes. But, to my surprise, it wasn’t the Ukrainian cuisine that grabbed my attention while I was there.
It seems that in the last few years Ukrainians have become obsessed with Georgian food. We have always been exposed to some of the dishes from Georgia as it was part of the Soviet Union, but it seems that right now Georgian cuisine is seriously en vogue.
It also happens that Georgian cooking is very paleo-friendly as it is full of fresh salads, vegetable dishes, grilled meats and hearty stews. They love garlic, and spices, nuts and fresh herbs like parsley and coriander are used extensively in the recipes.
I tried (and loved) many new dishes on this visit but some have grabbed my attention more than others. One of them was the famous Georgian garlic chicken, also known as chkemruli or shkmeruli (I read that the name comes from a village where the recipe originated). It consists of perfectly roasted or fried chicken smothered in a creamy garlic sauce.
While the authentic recipe uses dairy cream/milk for the sauce, I wanted to create a paleo-friendly version. I used nuts and nut milk to create the creamy sauce and the final dish turned out as well as I had hoped. It got thumbs up from my dinner guests and I hope you get to try it as well.
You can use any part of the chicken for this dish. I found that the traditional recipe often calls for the whole chicken, which is then cut up into pieces and pan-fried/roasted, but I opted for a few chicken legs (with the thigh on) and wings. You could do this with chicken thighs (ideally with the skin on) or even the breast meat. Turkey would also work well. The total amount of chicken used was about 1-1.2 kg (2.5 lb).
For the sauce, I am using almonds and almond milk but you could try cashews or other white nuts, and different dairy-free milk. I haven’t tried it with coconut milk but it would take on a more oriental flavour (sort of Thai or Indian). Ideally, you will need a food processor or a blender to puree the nuts and the milk together before cooking the sauce with the garlic. Alternatively, use almond meal and pre-chop the coriander finely and mix everything in the pan (see the recipe for more instructions).
PS. You can also make this sauce without the use of fresh coriander as it’s not always used but something I think works really well.
- 4 chicken marylands (whole legs with thighs and drumsticks)
- 6 chicken wings
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce
- 250ml / 1 cup almond milk
- 90–100 g / 3 oz. of skinless/blanched almonds or cashew nuts
- Handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 6 cloves of garlic (grated)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground up with mortar and pestle or crashed with a knife/rolling pin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- Garnish: chopped coriander/cilantro
- Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper on both side. Heat a little bit of coconut oil or olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook for 10 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.
- At the same time (or 10 minutes in), preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
- While the chicken is frying, prepare the sauce.
- Add the almond milk, nuts and fresh coriander to a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth and thick. Set aside.
- Once the chicken finishes frying, transfer the pieces to a large baking dish. Reserve the cooking fat/juices from the chicken in the pan.
- Place the baking dish with the chicken in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes, middle shelf. Then turn off the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.
- Now back to finishing our sauce. Add the garlic, coriander seeds, turmeric and cumin to the pan with the chicken fat/juices and place over medium heat. Stir through for a minute or two, until the garlic gets a little golden, and then pour in the blended almond milk mixture.
- Stir the sauce in the pan, over medium heat, incorporating all the spices, garlic and almond mix into a nice, thick sauce. Add about ½ teaspoon of salt and juice of 1/2 lemon, plus a pinch of pepper. Stir for another 30 seconds to a minute, and set aside.
- Once the chicken is done, transfer it to a platter and add the almond garlic sauce to the oven dish with all the cooking chicken juice. Stir through and pour the sauce over the chicken pieces on a platter. Top with chopped coriander over the top.
- Serve over cauliflower rice or other veggies and a nice big salad.
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