Friday, December 13, 2019

Manti – My Christmas Gift to my Daughter

Doug and I are thrilled that our daughter, Mandy, and son-in-law, Ron will be spending Christmas with us.

When I asked Mandy what special dishes she’d like me to prepare, she listed some of her favorites: tass kebab, sarma, midia dolma, banerov hatz, to name a few. All Ron asked for are cookies!

What I know she’d REALLY love to have is Manti. However, she knows that, in the past, my effort to make manti was less than stellar, therefore it wasn't mentioned.

Since I want this Christmas to be extra memorable, I decided to roll up my sleeves and give manti-making another try. This time, no shortcuts.
The final product: Baked Manti
Not long ago, I featured a post about Chef Hrant Arakelian and his Manti recipe. I decided to follow his recipe for making the dough. The meat filling recipe I used is a pretty standard one. What I was truly hesitant about was making this on my own; it is a daunting task, otherwise.

Fortunately, an Armenian friend of mine, Linda K., offered to assist me, so without hesitation, I accepted. Before Linda arrived, I’d made Chef Hrant’s dough (very easy to prepare as it turned out), and a meat filling.
Even with help, it took the two of us 3 hours to roll, cut, stuff, pinch, and bake approximately 180 pieces of Manti!

Here’s how we did it:

Chef Hrant’s Dough Recipe
3 cups of all-purpose Flour
2 whole large eggs
½ cup of warm water (it’s important that the water is warm- about 100 degrees F)  
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
Dough-making as per Chef Hrant
Put the flour in a mound on the counter and make a well in the middle, crack the eggs in a separate bowl (just in case any shell breaks in) then add them to the middle of the flour  add the oil, water and salt.

Use a fork to whisk the liquids while slowly incorporating the flour from the sides.
Manti dough done
Once the flour is mostly incorporated use your hands to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, you want a dough that forms a nice ball and springs back when you press your finger on the surface. If the dough is super sticky you can dust it with more flour as you knead. It’s always better to start off with a slightly wetter dough as you can easily add more flour but it’s very hard to add more water once you start to knead the dough.
Dough- wrapped and resting
Once you have a nice dough ball wrap it with plastic wrap or place it in a zip top bag and let it rest on the counter for 30 min to an hour. This step is important to allow the starches in the flour to hydrate properly and to give you a smooth and slightly stretchy dough.

If you want to make the dough a day ahead wrap it after you knead it and put it in the fridge for up to 2 days, anything more and the dough can pick up strange flavors.
When you are ready to roll, place the dough on the counter for an hour to come to room temp.

Manti Filling Ingredients:
1 lb. lean ground beef (lean ground lamb or turkey can be substituted)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1or 2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, black pepper, freshly ground coriander, Aleppo red pepper, and allspice to taste
½ cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

Filling Directions:
In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, salt, pepper, ground coriander, Aleppo red pepper, allspice to taste, cooled onion mixture, and chopped parsley. Combine until ingredients are well-blended.
Manti ready to bake
The Assembly:
Divide the dough in to 5 equal parts and proceed to roll it out.

Roll the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness. You should be able to barely see light though the dough.
Dough was divided into 5 balls, rolled with a rolling pin, cut with multi-wheeled cutter & pizza wheel into 1 1/2-in squares. 
Once the dough is rolled, use a pastry cutter or pizza wheel and a ruler to cut the dough in to 1 1/2- inch for canoe-shaped Manti. (Note: I purchased a multi-wheel dough cutter for this task. It didn’t cut through completely in all areas, but did a good job of marking the dough. The pizza wheel completed the task.)
The first shaped manti
Put a large chickpea size ball of the meat in the center of the dough square and bring up two opposite sides and pinch them leaving the center where the meat is open. It should look like a little canoe, with the meat ball nestled in the middle.

Chef Hrant’s Note: When you are forming the dough and sticking the edges together, resist the temptation to wet the edges; this just makes the dough super soft and hard to work with. I also find that dusting the fingers I am using to pinch the dough in a little flour helps the dough from sticking to me.
The second pan of Manti
Before arranging the shaped manti in the baking pan, I melted 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter and spread it evenly in the bottom of the large, round baking pan. (I ended up using a second, rectangular pan as well.) They were baked in a hot 375°F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes - until the edges of the dough started to brown slightly.

Chef’s Note: If serving immediately: Remove pan of baked manti from the oven and pour on some chicken stock - just enough to come to the top edge of the Manti. Put it back in the oven for a minute or so to cook the manti to allow the liquid to absorb.

Since I’m not serving the manti until Mandy is here, I completely cooled the baked manti, placed them in freezer bags and froze them.

When it’s time to serve, I will defrost the manti in the refrigerator overnight. To heat, I’ll place defrosted manti in a lightly buttered baking pan, bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes or until heated through.

While the Manti bakes, I’ll heat 2 cups (or more) of chicken broth in a saucepan, enhanced with a tablespoon of ‘Better than Bouillon’ (or bouillon cubes) for extra flavor.

To serve: Place broth into individual serving bowls, add the amount of Manti desired. Top it with a dollop of plain (or garlic) yogurt and sprinkle with ground sumac, if desired.

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