A Georgian Supra: Khinkali, Bazhe and Phkali

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Georgia is a country of about 4.5 million people.  It is one of the first places to adopt Christianity as its national religion in the 4th century.  It was claimed by the Russian Republic in the 19th century and remained that way until the Iron Curtain fell.  As with most former Soviet states, political turmoil was rampant during much of the 1990’s followed by a period of economic boom and currently by a decline. Georgia contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia considers the regions to be occupied by Russia.  Russia considers them to be independent countries allied with Russia. This was the gist of the factors that launched the 2008 War between South Ossetia and Russia against Georgia.   After several days of heavy fighting and confusing media reports, Georgian troops were made to withdraw from South Ossetia.

In Georgia, a Supra or Georgian Table is both a way to enjoy classic cuisine and a way to socialize with the family unit.  The Tamada, or head of the table, is the host of the evening and is largely responsible for the toasting and enjoyment of his guests.  No Supra is complete without this important role being filled by a worthy individual. A variety of classic Georgian cuisine would be served at Supra and tonight we will sample a few of these dishes.  Officially, (at least for the sake of this blog) the national dish of Georgia is Khinkali, a dumpling made with meat filling and dough of wheat flour.  This dish has its roots in the Eastern Mountains but is thoroughly enjoyed throughout the country.  In addition, we are preparing two other dishes.  Chicken Bazhe is a roasted chicken with a ground walnut sauce and Beet Pkhali is a blended salad of beets, walnuts and other veggies that is seasoned with vinegar salt and pepper.  Beets are one of my favorite vegetables and visiting Eastern European cuisine gives us a chance to eat this delicious vegetable since it is common throughout much of the region. A few notes I thought I would mention before we sit down to eat.   The top twist of the khinkali is not traditionally consumed.  It is dense and not terribly palatable.  It is also placed on the corner of the plate to let the eater know how many khinkali he/she has consumed. The Chicken Bazhe is delicious!  I love the flavors of the walnut sauce.  For todays recipe, I used roasted boneless skinless chicken breast instead of a whole bird.  For one thing, I had some chicken breasts in the fridge and for two with the other dishes we did not need a whole chicken.  If you choose to do chicken breasts, simply season and roast them for an appropriate amount of time (15-20 mins) and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before slicing them for service.  You may also wish to cut the sauce recipe in half as it makes a good amount. The Beet Phkali is good, but in the future, I might skip the food processor and go with a bite sized chop of the veggies.  I prefer the texture of sliced or diced beets to blended ones. Khinkali (Georgian Dumplings) Ingredients Makes 25 dumplings 4 cups of unbleached white flour 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 1 1/4 cups of warm water 1 pound of mixed ground beef and pork (not too lean) 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt Pinch or two of cayenne 1/4 teaspoon of ground caraway seed 3 small onions, peeled 1/2 cup of warm water or beef bouillon Preparation Combine the flour, salt and warm water to make firm dough. Knead for 5 minutes, then let it sit, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the ground meats and spices. Grind the onions and stir them into the meat mixture. With your hands, knead in water or bouillon. Divide the dough into 25 pieces. On a floured board, roll each piece out to a 6-inch round. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each round. Make accordion pleats all the way around the filling by folding the edges of the dough in toward the center. Move in a clockwise direction, allowing each fold of dough to overlap the previous one until the filling is completely enclosed in the pleated dough. Holding the dumpling firmly in one hand, twist the pleats together at the center to seal, breaking off the excess dough at the topknot. Cook the dumplings in salted, boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot. Chicken Bazhe Ingredients 1-1/2 cups walnuts 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped 3/4 cup boiling water 2 tsp. red wine vinegar 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. ground marigold (if available) 3/4 tsp. ground coriander seeds 1/4 tsp. paprika Dash cayenne One 4- to 5-lb. roasting chicken Butter or olive oil Preparation In a food processor, grind the nuts coarsely. Add the garlic and continue to grind to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and beat in the boiling water, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in the vinegar and spices. Allow to sit for several hours to meld. About 1 1/2 hours before serving time, rinse the chicken and wipe it dry. Rub the skin with a little butter or olive oil. Place on a rack in a shallow pan at roast at 375°F for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting occasionally. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before carving. Serve the bazhe sauce over slices of hot roast chicken. Red Beet Pkhali Ingredients: Walnuts-200 gr. Beets- 1 kg Garlic- 4 cloves Celery-1 bunch Parsley-1 bunch Coriander- 1 bunch Salt, pepper and vinegar to taste Preparation Wash and boil the red beet with leaves. While boiling add celery and parsley. Chill, strain and put this through the meat grinder or food processor. Then add minced walnut, garlic, new and dry coriander, salt, pepper and wine vinegar to taste. Mix the ingredients well and serve. Serves 6. http://www.aboutgeorgia.ge/cuisine/meats.html?page=10 http://www.darragoldstein.com/bazhe.html http://sisauri.tripod.com/ref/cuisine/cuisine.html

Eric Ackerson
Eric Ackerson is a food writer, blogger and seafood marketing professional. His work takes him to many ports of call around the world. Currently Eric is cooking the national dish of every country on Earth at his blog My Hungry Tum. Eric enjoys travel and says his favorite food cities are Singapore and Vancouver. He lives in Charlotte NC with his wife and two daughters who he says are quickly becoming “foodies” themselves…
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