Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Kitchen My World - Azerbaijan

I was a bit flummoxed when I saw that this week's My Kitchen My World country would be Azerbaijan. I had no idea what I was going to make - I didn't even know where Azerbaijan was, let alone what kind of food they ate there! But I got right to work looking for ideas when I came across this wonderful blog - Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook. I fell in love with the first recipe I saw, it looked simple to make and very delicious. From there I found a bread to go with it and a dessert as well. I cooked this all up on Tuesday, and spent the rest of the week impatiently anticipating when I could post it!

So I present our Azeri menu for this week: Toyug Chighirtmasi (Chicken with Eggs), Tendir Choreyi (Tandir or Tandoori Bread), and Tenbel Pakhlava (Easy Baklava).

Toyug Chighirtmasi (Chicken with Eggs)
3 spoons vegetable oil
2 spoons butter (or margarine)
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds boneless or bone-in chicken parts, cut into about 10 serving pieces (I used boneless skinless chicken breast - we rarely buy this, but do on occasion for a special treat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon, or more, to taste, ground black pepper
4 medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juices
3 eggs, lightly beaten ( the bread and dessert each use an egg yolk for brushing, so I used the two egg whites in place of one of the eggs here)
chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley, to garnish (I forgot to garnish mine...)

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until it is light brown. Transfer the onion to a bowl and put aside.

Add the remaining oil and the butter to the same frying pan and heat over medium heat (Note: butter alone tends to brown when you melt it. Adding some fluid oil to the pan along with butter will prevent that). Add the chicken pieces and fry for about 20 minutes, or until they are brown, turning them once to cook on both sides.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the cooked onions and chopped tomatoes with juices to the pan. Cover and turning only occasionally, simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Pour the beaten eggs over the chicken, slightly tilting the pan to distribute the eggs evenly. Cover the pan and let cook for about 5-7 minutes (do not stir!) or until the eggs are set. Serve immediatley, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Chicken with Eggs is delicious with bread or rice.

And speaking of bread, here's the bread that I made to go with the Chicken and Eggs.

Tendir Choreyi (Tandir or Tandoori Bread)
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 egg yolk, for brushing
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix yeast with water until the yeast is dissolved.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Add salt and mix well. Gradually add the yeast-water mixture and stir in using your hand until a rough ball forms (This is such a fun step!).

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press any loose dough pieces into the ball and knead the dough, punching it down with your fists, folding it over and turning. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and put it back into the large bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or a plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm spot for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in bulk. The dough should look puffy and be soft when poked with a finger (This is one of the only doughs I've made that really did rise well. I'm not very good at kneading so my dough doesn't always rise very prettily - but this one did!).

Punch down the dough, then transfer it onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a ball, and with your hands flatten slightly and stretch it lengthwise. Using a rolling pin, start rolling the dough beginning at one end until you obtain a long flat bread about 1/2 inch thick, 14 inches long and 8 inches wide.

Carefully transfer the bread onto a non-stick baking sheet, fixing the shape as necessary. Leave the dough to rest on the sheet for another 15 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a knife, make shallow crosshatching slashes on the bread, 4 from right to left and 4 the opposite way, each at a slight angle. Brush the bread evenly with the egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom (At this point, I realized that maybe my bread was rising too well; it turned out much fluffier as a finished product than Farida's, but it was still delicious).

While the main dish and the bread were delicious, the star of the meal was the dessert - Baklava!

Tenbel Pakhlava (Easy Baklava)
3 cups flour
8 oz (2 sticks) butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream mixed with 1 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 1/2 cups (10 oz) walnuts, finely chopped (they should be somewhat crunchy in the pie, so do not grind finely - I chopped mine by hand, I was so proud of myself!)
To Brush:
1 egg yolk

Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, combine flour and butter. Using a fork, or a knife (or pastry blender, if available), cut in the butter until the mixture forms large crumbs the size of large peas.

Add sour cream/baking soda mixture and egg yolks and continue tossing until the dough comes together in a mass. It should be gentle to touch.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, forming each one into disks. Wrap each disk in a plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and egg whites. Using a balloon whisk or electric mixer, whip vigorously until well blended. Add chopped walnuts and mix well with a spoon.

Lightly grease the baking pan with oil or butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, press firmly to roll the dough from the center in all directions until you obtain a rectangular (or round, if you are going to use a round baking pan) about 8 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick, or just the size to fit your pan (Farida mentions that this dough is very easy to work with and rolled out quickly - I have to agree, it was very nice).

Carefully transfer the round into the pan, pressing it against the bottom and the sides. Baklava releases juices when baking, so slightly stretching the dough to the sides and sealing them tightly will keep the juices inside. If there is any tear in the dough, repair by pressing a small piece of dough over it. Spread half the filling over the layer.

Roll the second disk in the same way and place it in the pan on top of the walnut filling. Spread the remaining filling over the second layer.

Roll the third dough disk and place it on top of the walnut filling. Brush this layer with egg yolk. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, carefully cut the baklava in cross-hatching diagonals to make diamond shapes, cutting through the filling all the way to the bottom. Place a whole or half a walnut in the middle of each baklava piece.

Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until golden on top. Times may vary, so take extra care not to overbake - baklavas will harden and will not be that juicy if baked for too long. Remove the pan from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the baklava diamonds from the pan and serve. Store in a covered container - the baklava gets even more moist and delectable when it has been stored for a while.

The baklava before storing overnight - delicious!

Traditional baklava is made with many layers of very thin dough, phyllo dough. This baklava is much easier, and is literally translated to mean "Lazy Baklava." It isn't quite as flaky as traditional baklava, but it was so delicious nonetheless! Again, store covered at least overnight to get it really moist and syrupy - and heavenly!

The baklava after storing overnight - absolutely incredible! See how much more moist it is? Sticky, syrupy ... perfect.

Farida gives step by step photos for these recipes on her blog - they were very helpful in making sure I did things properly. I'm so glad I found her blog. This was my first experience with Azerbaijani cuisine, but I'm sure it won't be the last! Nush Olsun!

To see what the other MKMW-ers made this week, check out our blogroll.


HoneyB said...

Stephanie you went all out! It looks great!

joannabug said...

Wow! That's all I can say. Looks like a feast!!!

The chicken and eggs looks really good, seems like it would be an easy dish to make with household staples.

Elra said...

Stephanie, I am so proud of you. You made a complete Azeri's meal. Including the dessert. Wasn't it a fun country to visit?

Bridget said...

What a feast!!!

Jessica said...

That bread looks SO yummy!!! Great job!!

farida said...

Stephanie, thank you so much for trying our Azerbaijani recipes from my blog. I am jumping of joy, literally. You just made my day! ASo glad you made these dishes. You picked up my favorites ,by the way:) Everything looks delicious! I hope you can visit Azerbaijan one day. I would gladly be your guide if I happen to be there at the same time with you:) I go there once a year, in summer, to visit my family and friends. Thanks again!!! And thank you, Elra for the initiative! Yay:))

Sophie said...

Ah, a no-fuss baklava recipe :), I'll have to hold onto this one!