Last week I heard from Ron Takakjian, one of my Dikranagerdtsi cousins. He wanted to share a kufteh preparation method he’d never tried, and wanted my opinion about it before he gave it a go.
An Italian friend of his suggested he make kufteh like one would make ravioli. What Ron’s friend said was this, “Instead of cupping the outer shell in your hand and forming it around the stuffing , try rolling the outer shell till it is paper thin, and with a cookie cutter, cut into circles, add filling, then top with a larger circle.
I told Ron it sounded reasonable, and to go for it. I also asked him to send me photos and the recipe he was going to use. (You can never have too many kufteh recipes!)
Ron said he’d try the technique over the weekend and let me know how it turned out.
Here’s Ron's report:
“I did it and they turned out great!! It worked so well I made the entire batch this way. Rolled out the meat and with my hands spread it out (like my Mom used to do making lavash). The outer shell was just thin enough to hold the filling and gave a great balance between meechoog and the kufteh. I don't make this too often and have never mastered the art of making really thin outer shell. This was a breeze.”
Ron used his maternal grandmother's (Aroosiag Najarian) recipe that his mom jotted down over 50 years ago.
Ron’s updated technique follows his grandmother’s recipe.
Grandma Aroosiag’s Meechoog Kufteh
(Written down by Elizabeth Takakjian, circa 1960)
Filling (meechoog) Ingredients: Prepare a day in advance
2 1/2 lbs. diced onions (on the large side)
2 lbs. ground lamb
Salt and Aleppo pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. allspice
5 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. Crisco, or lard (Ron uses butter)
Sauté meat in skillet with butter and ¼ cup water until it simmers and becomes tender. (Water should evaporate; only fat should remain).
In another skillet add 4 to 5 Tbsp. of fat from the (cooked) lamb and sauté onions until they are limp. (DO NOT OVERCOOK) Add lamb, parsley, coriander, allspice, paprika, salt and Aleppo pepper. (Cayenne can be used if you don’t have Aleppo pepper.)
Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 30 to 45 minutes.
NOTE: Aroosiag said “make sure the onions don’t disappear while cooking.”
Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Outer Shell Ingredients:
2 lbs. lean ground beef (or lamb if you prefer)
3 cups #1 (fine) bulgur
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander
Water as needed
Mix ingredients – add a little water and knead until it is a smooth mixture.
Make a small ball and hold in palm of hand. Cup it and start to make a hole in the middle of the ball for the filling. (Thinning the walls the way a potter makes a vase.)
Add a tablespoon of filling; bring edges together to close. Seal top completely and pat with both hands. The kufteh should be flat on the bottom and round on the top. Keep water handy – you have to work with dampened hands.
Place kufteh on wax paper.
Drop kuftehs in boiling salted water without overcrowding the pot. When they float to the top, they’re done.
Here’s Ron’s updated ‘ravioli-style’ method:
Using a rolling pin, he rolled out half of the outer shell’s meat-bulgur mixture on a wooden cutting board and with his hands flattened the mixture until it was very thin. With a large, round cookie cutter, Ron cut the outer shell mixture into circles.
|Rolled outer shell in background|
Ron’s final comment: “I’m sure my grandmother wouldn’t have approved of this method, but these were the best (kuftehs) I’ve ever made!”
Many thanks to Ron for doing the work and sharing this experience - and to his Italian friend for offering the wonderful suggestion!