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Circassian Chicken

This cool chicken salad in a creamy walnut sauce supposedly got its name because its color resembles the pale complexions of the Circassian beauties in the sultan's harem during the Ottoman Empire. The mild, slightly nutty chicken is traditionally served as part of a Turkish meze assortment, and can be drizzled with red pepper oil. In this version, Turkish red pepper replaces the pepper oil.

Plus: More Chicken Recipes and Tips

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • One 4-pound chicken, quartered
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 1 pita bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups walnuts (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • Turkish red pepper, such as Aleppo or Urfa (optional)


  1. Put the chicken in a large soup pot. Add the onion, allspice, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and coriander seeds. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and when it is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and pull the meat off the bones in shreds.
  2. Strain the fragrant chicken broth and transfer 3 cups to a small saucepan. Boil until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
  3. In a small bowl, mash the pita in the milk until it is completely soaked. Transfer the pita to a food processor. Add the walnuts and garlic and process to a paste. With the machine on, add about 1 cup of the reduced broth in a thin stream until a thick sauce forms; add more of the broth if necessary. Season the walnut sauce with salt and pepper and scrape half of it into a bowl. Fold the shredded chicken and the cilantro into the walnut sauce. Mound the chicken on a plate, top with a pinch of Turkish red pepper and serve. Pass the extra walnut sauce at the table.

Make Ahead

The chicken salad can be refrigerated overnight.

Serve With

Pita or other flat bread.

Suggested Pairing

A simple, medium-bodied Italian red will bridge the spices here.

Contributed By Photo © Lisa Linder Published May 2005

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