Circassian-Style Chicken with Aleppo Pepper

For the best flavour, begin preparing this dish at least two days in advance of serving; this chicken improves with time. It keeps up to a week in the refrigerator if carefully covered. Serve warm, not hot, with a simple bulgur or rice pilaf.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hours
Total Time: 1 hours 40 minutes
16 servings


  • 6 pounds chicken quarters
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. garlic, peeled and chopped with salt
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper, or more to taste
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • 2-1/4 cups (8 ounces) shelled walnuts
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice



  1. To make the chicken and sauce: Wash the chicken and pat dry. Trim off excess skin and fat.
  2. Heat the oil in a 5-quart casserole. Add the chicken and 2 teaspoons of the chopped garlic; sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and saffron. Cover with 1 quart water; simmer until chicken is tender. (Slow, gentle cooking helps to keep the chicken intact.)
  3. Meanwhile, toast the flour in a 9- or 10-inch heavy nonstick skillet, turning it constantly until it becomes a lovely light beige. Add the Near East pepper and allspice, and continue stirring over low heat 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat.
  4. Skin, bone, and cut the chicken quarters into smaller serving pieces. Lightly season with additional salt and black pepper if desired. Strain the chicken broth and degrease. You should have 3-1/2 cups. Mix the remaining garlic with 1 cup of the broth and pour over the chicken to keep it moist.
  5. In a food processor, grind the walnuts and seasoned flour to a smooth paste. Slowly add 1 cup of the chicken broth and process until smooth. Then slowly add the remaining broth to make a creamy sauce.
  6. Scrape the sauce into the skillet, set over medium-low heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
  7. Drain the chicken pieces and place in one layer in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch ovenproof serving dish. Add 1 cup of the walnut sauce and the lemon juice; mix well. Thin the remaining sauce with water to a napping consistency and correct the seasoning with salt. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Let the mixture cool completely, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 days before serving.
  8. To make the red-tinted oil: Gently reheat the cooked chicken in a 350° F oven until warm. Heat the walnut oil in a very small saucepan, add the Aleppo pepper, and swirl to combine; heat just to a sizzle. Remove from the heat and allow the pepper to settle. Dribble the red-tinted oil over the surface of the dish, making decorative swirls.