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.
Chakhokhbili (Georgian Chicken Stew with Herbs and Tomatoes)
A 5 lb. chicken, trimmed of fat and skin and cut into parts (or 2 lbs. chicken thighs or chicken drumsticks. I wouldn’t recommend only breast meat, because it tends to get dry.)
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
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and diced—you can blanch and peel them first if you like, but I don’t bother)
½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
About 1 ½ cups finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (choose from cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, basil, dill, tarragon, summer savory, celery greens), for instance:
- ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
- ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh 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.
- If you’re starting with a whole chicken, cut it into parts, removing fat and skin as you go: separate the wings, the thighs, the drumsticks, and the breast, then cut the breast into 2-inch chunks.
- Heat butter or oil in a 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 pieces, salt, pepper, and cayenne, stirring to coat. Brown the chicken lightly on all sides.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet and add the onions. 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 vinegar, and half the herbs, stirring to combine.
- Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken back to the pan. Stir in the rest of the herbs and cover the pan. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with additional herbs sprinkled on top, with crusty bread, pita bread or naan, or over basmati rice.