Kharcho (Chicken and Walnut Soup)

Kharcho (Chicken and Walnut Soup)

This soup is famous all over Russia even though its origin is Georgian. The consistency of the soup resembles a thick stew and should be spicy and acidic, with most of the acid coming from tomato paste and plums. A special component of this dish is the liberal use of walnuts, which act much like dairy to round out the acid flavor of the stew and create a richer and silkier texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds, skinless, boneless chicken thighs (6 – 8 thighs, depending on size)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock*
  • 5 pitted prunes (dried plums)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 3 large or 4 small- to medium-sized red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 bunches fresh parsley, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3 - 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh green chili pepper (such as a serrano or jalapeno)
  • 1 fresh red chili pepper (such as a Fresno pepper), or another green pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped California walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek**
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Black pepper to taste

*Note:  If using canned stock, which tends to be salty, dilute it with an equal amount of water. 

**Ground mustard seed can be substituted. Fenugreek can be found in ethnic markets. 

Directions

  1. Cut chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces and put into a large pot of at least 6-quart capacity.   Add the chicken stock, prunes and tomato paste.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  
  2. Add the rice, red onion, half of the chopped cilantro and half of the chopped parsley, and simmer for 15 minutes longer.
  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt and chop them finely. Halve the peppers, removing the seeds, and chop the peppers finely as well.  In a bowl combine the garlic and peppers with the walnuts, and add the remaining chopped parsley and cilantro.   Add about 1 cup of the hot soup broth to the chopped mixture and stir to combine.   Stir the chopped mixture back into the simmering soup and add the coriander, mint, fenugreek and bay leaves.   Simmer the soup for 10 minutes longer, then season with salt and pepper to taste.