By now, you have doubtlessly made pounds and pounds of the Imeretian cheese I blogged about earlier this week. You must be wondering “oh, what to do with all this delicious cheese?” Brush aside all the fuss about seasonal cooking, and try this very simple salad, one of the simplest posts on my entire blog! The dish is inspired by something I found in Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the book; I only found the one recipe interesting. But this salad tastes great, and uses typically Georgian ingredients.
In Georgia, walnut-stuffed eggplant rolls are almost as popular as khachapuri. In Abkhazia, too, apparently, as I adapted this recipe from an Abkhaz cookbook! These rolls make for a very satisfying appetizer, and the filling strikes the perfect balance between spices, fresh herbs, moist onions and rich walnuts. My partner doesn’t even like eggplant, and she liked these!
Walnut-stuffed eggplant rolls
Yields about 24 pieces
1 1/2 lb Italian eggplant
4 oz olive oil
6 oz very thinly sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
4 saffron filaments
8 oz shelled walnuts
2 tbsp chopped mint
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp piment d’espelette
4 oz pomegranate juice
- Remove the stems from the whole eggplants, and slice the flesh lengthwise into slices about 3/16″ thick, discarding the skin-side slices. Generously season the slices with salt on both sides. Let rest for 15 minutes, then brush both sides with a wet paper towel.
- Sauté the eggplant slices in olive oil in a hot frying pan until brown on both sides. Reserve on paper towels.
- Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Season with salt, mix in the saffron and let cool.
- In a food processor, process the walnuts, mint, parsley, piment d’espelette and pomegranate juice to a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the onion preparation. Place some mixture on one end of each eggplant slice, and roll into a cylinder. Refrigerate and take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
Satsivi is a thick Georgian sauce made with walnuts, onions and spices. There are many Georgian nut sauces, but this is the most famous. The sauce is served with poultry — especially turkey — or sometimes with fish. Although this is traditionally a cold dish (tsivi means cold in Georgian), I prefer to serve it warm. I choose guinea hen because it produces a moister and more flavorful meat than chicken or turkey. It goes particularly well with wild mushrooms like porcini.
This recipe is as much about satsivi as it is about the best way to cook poultry. Although the process I describe below is time-consuming, it gives outstanding results. The brine guarantees that the meat is salted throughout, which accentuates its flavor. And because poultry legs and breasts do not cook at the same temperature, I prepare them separately instead of cooking the whole bird and ending up with undercooked legs or a dry breast.
Guinea hen sous-vide
Yields 4 servings
1 guinea hen, 2 1/2 to 3 lb
4 oz butter, sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil…)
- Place the guinea hen in a pot. Cover with a brine made of cold water blended with 7% salt, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
- Discard the brine and soak the guinea hen in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
- Remove the guinea hen from the pot. Separate the wings and legs. Break the carcass lengthwise to obtain one piece with the breast on the bone, and one back piece. Reserve the breast on the bone, and the legs. The other pieces (wings, back, neck) can be used to make stock.
- Place the legs and half of the butter and chopped herbs in a sous-vide pouch. Cook in a 166 F water bath for 8 hours.
- Place the breast in another sous-vide pouch with the rest of the butter and chopped herbs (if you don’t have a pouch large enough, remove the bone). Cook in a 146 F water bath for 2 hours.
Guinea hen satsivi
Yields 4 servings
guinea hen sous-vide
3/4 oz butter
2 1/2 oz onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp ground star anise
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
3 stems saffron
2 tbsp red wine
3 oz walnut halves
2 oz ice cubes
2 oz heavy cream
- Take out 6 oz of liquid from the guinea hen sous-vide pouches. Keep the pouches warm.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until golden brown. Add the star anise, black pepper, garam masala, saffron, and red wine, and stir for 1 minute. Add the walnuts and the liquid from the guinea hen, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
- Transfer to a blender, add the ice cubes and heavy cream, and process until smooth.
- Return to the saucepan, cover and keep warm.
- Take the legs and breast out of the pouches. You can either discard the skin or cook the meat skin side down in a very hot pan with olive oil until brown and crispy. Cover with the sauce and serve.