This likely shouldn't be called a simple supper. Perhaps a straightforward supper would be a more accurate description. It is a split chicken, roasted on a shallow pan lined with olive oil, butter, garlic and thyme. I love roast chicken, especially when it has been split which shortens the cooking time and offers myriad opportunities to place different flavours in close contact with the meat. But honestly, the sides here, in particular a walnut paprika sauce and a sour cream beet sauce, were what drew me to this recipe, found in the Cindy's Supper Club cookbook. I adapted it slightly for what I had on hand, was able to purchase at the local grocer and/or prefer in technique and taste.
As it is a recipe with Eastern European origins, Georgia specifically, beets and garlic do figure heavily in the sauce formulation. After marrying a man of Romanian descent, I have become fully acquainted with their love for garlic. If you aren't keen on garlic, or do not use it for mating rituals (Just Kidding!!!!!), feel free to tone it down in both sauces.
How I put it together....or rather how I would have put it together in ideal circumstances....
Full disclosure, I had to do this recipe over two nights as on the first night our local grocery store was out of walnuts and their weekly shipment wasn't scheduled to arrive until the next day. Being in a tiny town, and I mean think smaller if one thousand people sounds freakishly small, you learn to be flexible with your time as things here run along at a different pace that engenders you to patience. It's where life slows down, at least enough where you can stop to say hi to anyone, or, in this instance, you adapt and decide to finish the recipe the next evening.
Anyway, now that the truth is out there, here is how I went about getting supper ready. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grab a pair of kitchen shears and split the chicken lengthwise, cutting through its breast and back bones. After rinsing the chicken, I place it on some paper towels to dry and blot any moisture. Whilst it hangs out there for a bit, I go about drizzling the pan with some olive oil, pats of butter and a few crushed garlic cloves. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and place bone-side down onto the garlic cloves and a few sprigs of thyme if you happen to have them. Put the pan in the oven and get going on the sauces.
Wash and do not peel two beets. Boil the beets until fork tender. Cool, peel and fine dice. Place in a blender with another clove of garlic. My little kitchen helper at this point decided, as she had voluntarily peeled many cloves, one wasn't sufficient and proceeded to pile many cloves into the blender in true Romanian fashion. Her Bunica would be proud!
Whirl beets and garlic around. Add pepper to taste along with a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Oh, at this point, I took the liberty of toasting the walnuts in the oven where the chicken was cooking. Back to the beet sauce....We added six tablespoons of sour cream, each more than slightly heaping as both my helper and I are quite enamoured with the stuff. Whirl again until it's a slumpy sauce. Add salt to taste and spoon the sauce into a serving bowl. Check the walnuts before you forget!!
If the walnuts are toasted, bring them out. Quickly wash and dry the blender. Dump walnuts into the blender with another clove of garlic. We went with one clove here.
Add one to two tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Please note, add whichever vinegar you please. I, personally, wouldn't be adding raspberry or balsamic or rice vinegar here. The slightly sweet but less intrusive white or red wine vinegars would be great. Apple cider would figure nicely against the bitter-dry of the walnuts and also would add a great complement to the beet sauce.
Toss in one to two tablespoons each of sweet paprika and ground coriander with a dash of cayenne. Drizzle about one cup of water. Blend! If too dry, add a titch more water until the sauce is, again, a slumpy consistency that needs to be spooned about.
Check the chicken! Baste with the buttery olive oil pan juices. With a meat thermometer placed in the breast meat, check the temperature. I aim for 170 F, maybe a little less as the meat continues to cook after it's been removed from the heat.
At this point it's like a choose-your-own-adventure book. You get to choose if you're going to lay down a salad, some crusty bread or some rice or all three with this dinner. My preference is a simple green salad, no dressing. But I'm possibly (probably?, really quite??) weird in the fact I prefer my greens without any dressing. Especially if it's store-bought dressing. Not a food snob thing at all. It's just a really long story I'm not going to get into at this moment. But I also love rice. Ten times over bread. So I did both. And nixed the bread. That's it. Simple, straightforward, different and entirely tweakable for your preferences.
Recipe: Georgian Style Chicken with Walnut and Beet Sauces
1- 5 lb roasting chicken, split along its back and breast bones
2 tbsp olive oil for drizzling pan
1/4 cup butter, separated into pats
2 sprigs of thyme
4-10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper to taste
1 med beet, cooked, peeled and finely diced
1 clove of garlic, peeled
6 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of walnuts
2 tbsp of white or red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup of water (with a little more if needed)
salt and pepper to taster
dash of cayenne