Thursday, October 22, 2020

Khatoon Boodhi - Rice and Meat Patties: A Recipe from Araksi Dinkjian

Doug and I know a thing or two Dikranagerdsi recipes, but when we saw Anahid Dinkjian’s post for a Dikranagerdsi dish called Khatoon Boodhi on FB, we looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders because we’d never heard of it. 

Could it be a recipe from the land of our ancestors? We set out to find the answer.

Araksi Dinkjian's Khatoon Boodhi

This recipe pictured above was made by Anahid’s mother, Araksi who received the recipe from her husband Onnik’s mother, from Dikranagerd. 

Therefore, the assumption we made is that this is a Dikranagerdsi dish.

To further establish the recipe’s origin, I checked on Charles Kasbarian’s (C.K.) Armeniapedia page to see if he had it listed in the index of his ‘The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook (In Process)’. The name ‘Kadin Boudi’ is in the index, however, the full recipe isn’t – at least not yet. 

(A word to all: Spellings vary greatly in Armenian recipes names.)

C.K. points out the following explanation of the recipe's name:

"Also known as Khanum Boudi = Lady's Thighs.
Khatoun is lady in Arabic, and Khanum is lady in Persian.

The difference is:
Khatoun is a lady of inferior rank, and Khanum is a lady of superior rank."

Given these two sources, I feel safe in saying that this recipe is of Dikrangerdsi origin, although I'm certain other regions have similar dishes.

Our version of the Dinkjian's Khatoon Boodhi made with ground turkey. Served with yalanchi, salad, and lavash (not pictured).

Khatoon Boodhi - Rice and Meat Patties from Araksi Dinkjian

Yields 8 to 9 patties

Ingredients:

½ cup uncooked short grain rice (such as Carolina Rice), cooked according to package directions

½ lb. raw ground lamb

½ lb. raw ground beef

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped      

Seasonings measured according to your own taste – salt, pepper, Aleppo pepper, ground coriander

1 beaten egg for meat mixture

1 beaten egg for dipping

Canola oil for sautéeing and pan frying

Directions:

Cook ½ cup rice according to package directions. Once cooked, allow rice to cool completely.

Sauté chopped onions in 1 to 2 Tbsp. canola oil until soft but not brown. Allow onions to cool completely.

In a large bowl add the ground lamb and beef, the cooked and cooled rice and onions, 1 beaten egg, and the seasonings measured to your taste. Mix ingredients with your hands until well-combined.

Patties shaped and ready to dip in egg.
Form mixture into small patties of uniform size and thickness.

Coat each patty with beaten egg before cooking.

Dip the patties into beaten egg. Coat on both sides.

Place enough canola oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet. Turn burner on to medium heat. Add patties to skillet without crowding them. You might have to cook them in smaller batches, Pan fry patties until golden on both sides and meat is cooked through.

Cooked patties

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cousin Ani Ehramjian's Yalanchi - made in an Instant Pot!

Four years ago, Doug asked if I’d be interested in an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) for Christmas. My ears heard ‘Crock Pot’, to which I whole-heartedly replied, ‘Yes!’ 

On that Christmas morning, I carefully opened the package, but much to my surprise, an Instant Pot was revealed! Doug, beaming, expected me to be doing the same. Instead, I looked puzzled thinking he’d made a mistake, when, in fact, the mistake was mine. I smiled, thanked Doug, graciously accepted the gift, and placed it in a closet.

Current day:

My daughter Mandy was just here for a visit. Before she arrived we planned to prepare a few family favorites together - including yalanchi. I told her I was considering making something with my never-used Instant Pot and she was thrilled to hear that 
I finally felt comfortable enough to step out of my comfort zone. 

Allow me to explain my IP apprehension: Back in my early days in the kitchen, pressure cookers were used on the stovetop. Sometimes the pressure within the pot was so intense, it would literary blow the lid off, often creating a hole in the ceiling.

Mandy assured me that wouldn't happen in the IP, so we unpacked it, did a dry-run with the 'machine', and she guided me like a pro. (It's pretty funny that my daughter was giving me, a retired culinary teacher, a lesson in cooking!) 
With Mandy helping, I agreed to give it a try. 

Cousins Ani and Margaret

The recipe we chose to make came from Ani Ehramjian, cousin Margaret’s twenty-something-year-old daughter. I had seen on FB Ani’s photo of the yalanchi she made using an Instant Pot, and it looked delicious.
Ani's IP Yalanchi served with hummus and eech

To help with our experiment, Ani sent me her family’s recipe for ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves - the Instant Pot version’.

Mandy and I worked side-by-side, made some slight adjustments to the recipe, and were very pleased with the final outcome.
Me (L) with my 'teacher', Mandy

Many thanks to Ani for the recipe, and to Mandy for helping me overcome my anxiety about cooking with a pressure cooker!!


Our fist attempt at making Yalanchi in the Instant Pot. Ours might not be as pretty as Ani's, but boy, were they good!

Stuffed Grape Leaves made in an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker from Ani Ehramjian

(Note: For non- Instant Pot users, stovetop instructions are  given below.)

Yields about 50 pieces

Ingredients:

5 cups chopped yellow onions, about 3-4 big onions
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped, about 1 cup 
1 cup short or medium grain rice
3/4 cup of olive oil (we used about 1/3 cup olive oil in all)
3 lemons, juiced
1-6 oz. can tomato paste, undiluted
1/4 cup pignolia nuts, toasted (we used ½ cup)
1/2 teaspoon allspice (we used 1 tsp.)
1/2 teaspoon dried mint (we used 2 tsp., finely crushed)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound, 2 oz jar of grape leaves, rinsed and stem ends removed
We used the Tamara brand grape leaves from Armenia.

Directions:

1. In a non-stick skillet, toast pine nuts over low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

2. Finely chop onions. 

3. In a large pan, sauté onions in 2-3 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes until softened. 

4. With heat on low, add the rest of the ingredients – except for the grape leaves. Mix until combined, and then remove from heat. Set aside to cool completely. 
Ready to Roll!

5. Wrap filling in grape leaves: Spread open each grape leaf with the shiny side facing down and the stem end toward you. Place a spoonful of filling in the center, fold over both sides and roll from the bottom of the leaf to the tip. Wrap tightly enough so the yalnchi won’t unravel during cooking, but not so tight that expanding rice will burst through the leaf. (View our video on how to roll grape leaves.) 

6. Line Instant Pot inner liner with ripped leaves. 
Torn leaves line the bottom of the pot.

7. Put wrapped grape leaves in rows in pot, pack tightly. Do not exceed the limit line marked on the pot. 
Ready to cook!

8. Add 1 cup of water to the pot, squeeze in extra lemon juice if desired. (Special Note: Ani said do NOT place a plate on top of the stuffed leaves in the IP!) 
My Instant Pot in action.

9. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for your Instant Pot, cook for 15 minutes on normal pressure, then 15 minutes natural release. It’s that easy!

Chill until ready to serve.

To serve: Arrange yalanchi on a platter and garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Stovetop Method: If you’d rather cook these on the stovetop, line the bottom of a large pot with torn grape leaves. Put wrapped grape leaves in rows in pot, pack tightly. Add 1 cup of water to the pot, squeeze in extra lemon juice if desired. Place a heavy plate on top of the stuffed grape leaves to prevent them from floating and/or unraveling.

Cook, covered, on the stove on low heat for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, until leaves are tender and rice is cooked.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Butterflied leg of lamb, grilled Armenian style

Lamb was my family's go-to meat when I was growing up, and my mother taught me the traditions of Armenian cooking that apportioned various cuts to pots, pans, broiler or oven. 

Firing up the grill was reserved for special occasions, and Sunday shish kebab was the most special of all. I realized how special it really  was when I bought our first gas grill two years ago. 

I soon learned that grilling with gas works best with the lid closed to keep the grill hot. Being unable to make skewers turn on their own through sheer willpower, Robyn and I  set out to find options that would yield kebab satisfaction without demanding constant attention.
Lamb loin chops
This led to a new appreciation of grilled lamb chops, with meaty loin chops getting our highest khorovatz scores. Now the search has led us to a grilled variation on the oldest of family favorites, leg of lamb.

In my experience, a leg of lamb was always roasted in the oven or in a stove-top pan. Everyone has a favorite twist, but there are a couple of constants in all Near and Middle-Eastern recipes: leave a generous layer of fat on the outside, and let the lamb cook long and slow—and then cook it some more.

The melting fat bastes the roast as it cooks, sealing in the juices. Result: meat nearly as white as chicken and moist as a plum.

Substituting the grill for the oven occurred to us when we came across a four-pound butterflied sirloin-half leg in our local market the other day. This may be familiar territory to many but it was new to us, so we took our time examining the meat as we discussed our options.

I wanted to try a dry rub and low heat, like American barbecue. After all, we are in South Carolina, y'all. But the meat was exceptionally lean and well-trimmed—reasons for applause from most cooks perhaps but that  argued against the traditional slow breakdown approach.

Instead, we decided to treat the leg like flat-sided shish kebab. A marinade of Armenian brandy and onions would provide the tenderizing, with a slather of olive oil to seal in the juices. 

Lamb marinating

You may remember - as we do - the old timers who insisted there was no need for measures or recipes because they cooked by eye. Well, when it came time to actually cook our lamb I was more or less cooking with eyes shut. I guessed at full heat (about 500+ degrees) and about eight minutes a side, turned once.

Somehow, it worked. 
Lamb rests before slicing.

My completely objective taste panel, consisting of my wife and daughter, assure me the marinade did its job in delivering authentic khorovatz flavor while tenderizing the meat. My preference might have been to cook it a tad longer but maybe I'm just an old shish-in-the-mud.

In fact, the sliced lamb offered enough color variety of pinks, not-so-pinks and charred bits to cover the doneness-range nicely.
Rice pilaf, salad, and sauteed onions round-out the meal. And lavash, of course (not pictured).
Our Recipe:
Butterflied leg of lamb Armenian style

Ingredients:
1 four-pound sirloin leg half, de-boned and butterflied
1 cup Armenian brandy
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarse chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground coriander seeds, Aleppo pepper, and salt, measured according to your taste

Directions
  • Open the lamb on a flat surface and trim any silver skin.
  • Place trimmed meat in a large casserole dish. Add brandy, onions and seasonings - except salt.
  • Coat meat well, cover and let marinate overnight. Turn once either before bed or in the morning.
  • Before you cook the lamb, remove the onions from the marinade and saute thoroughly to serve over the lamb.
  • Turn on the grill and wait until it's fully heated. Add salt to both sides of lamb  before placing it on the grill.
  • Place lamb on the grill and closing the cover. grill for 8 minnutes; turn meat. Cook another eight minutes. 
  • Remove lamb from heat and place on a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serving suggestion: serve with rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf, roasted bell peppers, salad, and lavash.