(Note: An earlier version of this post and recipe appeared on my personal blog, Eat with Pleasure, in 2013.)
Chakhokhbili is a lot easier to make than it is to pronounce. (The “kh” sounds like the “h” in a Russian-accented “hello,” or the “ch” in the German “ich.”) While you can certainly find this dish on restaurant menus in Georgia, it is equally likely to show up on weeknight dinner tables at home because it comes together quickly and is the kind of thing you can make a big batch of and then easily reheat the leftovers for another meal (or two or three, if there’s only one of you).
The dish’s name comes from the Georgian word for pheasant (khokhobi), and if you happen to have a pheasant on hand, you can substitute it for the chicken in the recipe. You could also use turkey, duck, or Cornish game hen. In Georgia today, chicken is the most common bird used for this recipe.
My Georgian host mother Shushana used to serve chakhokhbili with the slightly salty, pully bread she’d pick up at the bakery across the street from our apartment building. It was perfect for mopping up the last sweet, tomatoey juices from our plates. Serve yours with fresh baguette, Middle Eastern flatbread, or sturdy cornbread. You can also ladle it over basmati rice.
Chicken Stew with Tomatoes and Herbs (Chakhokhbili)
2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-in. chunks
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter or vegetable oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 medium yellow onions, cut in half and then into ½ in. slices
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped into slices roughly the same size as the onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with their juice (or 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced)
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground fenugreek
½ tsp. sweet paprika
½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
About 1 ¼ cups finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, divided
(Choose from cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, basil, dill, tarragon, summer savory, celery greens) I like:
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. finely chopped dill
Note on herbs: Georgians often use both the leaves and stems of fresh herbs unless the stems are particularly tough. If you dislike the sharper taste of the stems, feel free to discard them before chopping.
- Heat butter or oil in a large pot, Dutch oven, or cast iron skillet until it begins to sizzle. (You can use any heavy-bottomed pan with high sides, but avoid nonstick pans, which keep things from browning properly.) Add the chicken, salt, pepper, and cayenne, stirring to coat. Brown the chicken lightly on all sides.
- Remove the chicken from the skillet and add the onions and bell peppers. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic until it turns fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the other spices, the vinegar, and half the herbs, stirring to combine.
- Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and add the chicken back to the pan. Simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the rest of the herbs and adjust salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve with crusty bread, flatbread, mchadi, or over basmati rice.