One of my favorite things about Georgia is the remarkable diversity in regional cuisine. From Adjara’s dairy loaded dishes like sinori and Adjarian khachapuri to Samegrelo’s incredible use of spices in dishes like kharcho and kubdari – each region is full of its own unique culinary traditions. Racha, of course, is no exception. While the area is famous for its cured ham, Rachuli lori, and incredible bean dishes such as lobio lorit- there’s even more to the cuisine than that. Namely, shkmeruli. This deliciously creamy chicken dish comes from the teeny tiny village of Shkmeri sandwiched between the equally small villages of Usholta and Kharistvali. Like most Georgian dishes, this shkmeruli recipe is hearty, rich, and *loaded* with butter. In fact, butter, milk, chicken, and garlic are really all you need. So, modi!
Let’s get to it:
1 whole chicken, 1 1/4 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup butter, 4 tablespoons neutral oil, 15 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper.
Start by cutting the chicken into the 8 pieces: thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breasts. Never divvied a chicken before? This video is a great resource. Also, the spine goes great when making your own chicken stock so be sure to set aside or freeze for later.
Coat chicken pieces in salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of oil. Add two remaining tablespoons of oil to a medium heat pan. Add chicken to the pan and brown for ten minutes on each side. While chicken in browning, preheat oven to 200C/400F
Add browned chicken to a baking pan and bake in center of oven for 30 minutes.
While chicken is baking, prepare the sauce. Peel and grate the garlic cloves while melting the butter in a large sauce pan (preferably the one the chicken cooked in – more flavor!). Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the milk and bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce to low simmer for five minutes.
Add baked chicken to new baking pan. Traditionally, Georgians will use a shallow clay pan (pictured). Alternatively, a cast iron pan works well.
Gently pour the garlic sauce over the chicken and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Top with fresh ground black pepper if desired and enjoy!
If you haven’t paid a visit to Racha yet, I highly recommend it! I spent time in Ambrolauri recently and plan to road trip the region again sometime closer to fall when the leaves turn. The region is full of remarkable churches such as colorful Nikortsminda Cathedral and ancient crumbling bastions like Minda Fortress. Of course, the main highlight for me, though, is the food. Rachuli lori, lobio lorit, and shkmeruli only scratch the surface of Racha’s ancient cuisine.
Shkmeruli - Chicken In Garlic Sauce
- 1 1 kg whole chicken
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 15 cloves garlic (trust me)
- Wash and pat dry your chicken. Cut into 8 pieces - drumsticks, thighs, wings etc.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper and two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to medium heat pan. Cook chicken in pan for 10 minutes on each side. Meanwhile preheat oven to 200C/400F
- Add chicken to baking dish and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.
- Peel and grate garlic. Add butter to stovetop saucepan and heat. Once melted, add garlic and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add milk, bring to a boil and reduce to low simmer for 5 minutes.
- Place baked chicken into a new baking pan - traditionally Georgians will use a shallow clay pot (pictured) but alternitavely cast iron works great.
- Gently pour garlic sauce over the chicken and place back in oven for 5 minutes until crispy brown.
- Serve & enjoy!