As honorary consul of Georgia, I actively promote tourism to the country I represent. So I’m often asked what Georgia has to offer that captivates the heart and imagination. My answer? Gastronomy!
Georgia is a small nation in the Caucasus, with a population of just 5 million people. However, with magnificent, centuries-old churches and castles set against stunning mountain ranges, it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Located at a strategic crossroads, Georgia has an eclectic mix of Turkish, Russian, Persian and Central Asian culture, most evident in its fantastic food, which is one of the culinary world’s best-kept secrets.
My encounter with Georgian cuisine began years ago, when I attended my first supra, a highly ceremonial, traditional banquet that overflows with wine, food and revelry. I loved the experience and, since then, I’ve always tried to share Georgian food with everyone.
Supra, which literally means “tablecloth” (from the Arabic sufratun), is inseparable from Georgia’s national identity, and is characterized by its elaborate and poetic toasting etiquette. A supra is also an epicurean extravaganza without rival, where an abundance of dishes is served all at once, and where participants drink plenty of homemade wine over several hours.
Some tasty staples in every supra include tolma (meat wrapped and boiled in cabbage), qatmis salata (chicken salad with mixed herbs), gulgvidzli (stewed chicken heart and liver with spices and herbs), mtsvadi (barbecue garnished with pomegranate seeds), ispanakhi (fried eggplant with walnuts), khinkali (steamed beef or pork dumplings), badrijani (fried eggplant with stuffed spiced walnut and garlic paste), and of course, khachapuri, Georgia’s ubiquitous cheese pie.
My personal supra favorite is shkmeruli (chicken cooked in milk and garlic sauce), one of the easiest Georgian dishes to make.
Shkmeruli has just a few ingredients, which are combined together and baked in a traditional clay vessel, or ketsi. The rich flavor of crispy, roasted chicken, together with creamy garlic sauce, is simply heavenly! I prepare this dish often for friends and family, pairing it with either chilled, dry Georgian white wine or chacha, a clear and strong Georgian pomace brandy. Shkmeruli is a true crowd-pleaser!
I hope you enjoy this introduction to the world of Georgian cuisine. As we say in Georgia, didi madloba (thank you) and gaumarjos (Cheers)!
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp butter
2 c fresh full cream milk
1 bulb garlic, peeled and crushed
Sprinkle the chopped chicken with salt. Saute in butter. Put the chicken pieces in a shallow, ovenproof clay bowl or casserole.
Pour the milk in a saucepan and reduce over medium heat to about 1-1/3 cups. Then add the pressed garlic, salt to taste, and the oil left over from frying the chicken. Mix well.
Pour the milk-garlic mixture over the chicken pieces.
Place the chicken in a preheated 375 °F to 400 °F oven. Cook the chicken for 40 minutes, letting the sauce boil for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.
Serves 6. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
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