Fragrant Pot Roast

So I deviate a lot from plans. Mostly when it comes to food. I mean, I think I know what I want to make, plan the menu, but then something happens, like I come across an ingredient in a store that I just have to make, or something like and event throws the whole menu off. So where is this going? Very simple, I made an addition to my last week’s menu: I made pot roast. Initially, I made it for the wrong reasons: it was easy to make, it was not a lot of prep, I had little time blah blah.HOWEVER, it was the coziest, most satisfying dish to have on a December afternoon. Also, I love nothing more than a good piece of meat (true story).

So what makes it “fragrant” (sounds weird, but I could not think of a better word), is the herbs. Make sure they are fresh, not dry. It really makes the world of difference. Ultimately, you can also use any vegetables you’d like here (zucchini, squash) or omit the vegetables all-together and serve it with rice (but then make sure you add more broth to the pot, because it’s the vegetables that release some the liquid when they cook).

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So the roast: it’s pretty simple and full proof (you could also do this in a slow cooker, hence no oversight at all). For me, the most important is to first fry the roast on all sides to add some crust and color.

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Fragrant Pot Roast

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All the main characters (minus the veggies)

  • 2-3 pound Chuck Roast
  • variety of herbs: rosemary; thyme; tarragon
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 bag of fingerling potatoes
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 cup of sliced/diced mushrooms
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300F
  2. Liberally salt and pepper the roast.
  3. Chop the herbs, and rub them all over the roast. Make small cuts in the Roast and stuff the garlic cloves into the holes. Let the Roast rest.
  4. Chop/dice the vegetables and place them in a separate bowl
  5. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or another oven safe pot/cast iron pot)
  6. Brown the roast on all sides until brown in color (not too long, about 2-3 minutes each side)
  7. Remove the roast; in the same pot add more oil and toss in the vegetables and sauté
  8. Once the vegetables are done, place the Roast in the pot, moving the veggies around to surround the Roast.
  9. At this point, if desired, you can add a bit of wine and/or beef broth (don’t overdo it, because you don’t want your vegetables to be swimming in water).
  10. Place the pot in the oven and cook for about 2.5-3 hours (depending on the oven you have, mine is electric and cooks things a lot faster, if you have a gas one, it may take longer so the time is an estimate, use your judgment)
  11. Take the Roast out and let rest for a bit. The meat should be falling apart when pulled by a fork, that’s how tender it should be (and it obviously should not bleed).
  12. Use lotsa bread to dip, and enjoy with a glass of wine!

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Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs

I have an enormous appreciation for Mediterranean kitchen. Maybe because Azeri food is very similar to Mediterranean cuisine. Maybe because in my heart of hearts I want to travel so badly and I would start with that part of the world 🙂 maybe one day soon I will 😉 who knows.

Anywho…this recipe is super easy and super delicious. The beauty of it is that you can modify however you like. You can add various spices to the marinade, use the whole chicken, just breasts, just thighs or a combination. You can roast it or bake it. Your preference, really.

Yogurt Chicken Thighs

Yogurt Marinated Chicken 

6 chicken thighs (or a whole chicken cut up, adjust to your need/preference)

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (again, I use Fage only)

1/2 cup Plain yogurt (any will do, but I prefer the organic kind)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp Turmeric

Olive oil for drizzling over the chicken

** i also used 1 tbsp of a Tuscan Seasoning (it’s  a mix of dry garlic, onions, bell peppers, oregano, rosemary, lemon peel, sea salt)**

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Preheat the oven to 375, In a large pan combine everything except chicken. Stir well. Dip every piece of chicken in the yogurt mixture. Use your hands to make sure the yogurt mixture gets all over the pieces. Don’t be afraid to use too much, you want the chicken to be moist.

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Place the chicken into a pan (if you want to bake it, this will make the dish more wet), or on a roasting pan (which is what I did). Once the oven has preheated place the roasting pan into the oven (on a middle rack) and cook for about 30-45 minutes (depending on which part of chicken you are cooking).

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Serve it with potatoes or rice. I made some plain white rice in a rice cooker. I also made a neat little salad that I tried at my favorite Italian restaurant in Manhattan – Da Marino. It so simply delicious that I curse myself for not making it every day:

Take about 3 medium size tomatoes and 1 cucumber. Chop them up into a medium size pieces (closer to small than medium) and place them in a deep place. Pour a little bit of olive oil over the vegetables. Now chop up 2 cloves of garlic and add those to the plate (I would suggest smashing the garlic for more flavor). Now add salt and set aside for about 30 minutes. The juices will run and IT WILL BE DELICIOUS!

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Yum yum!

Buglama – a classic

Ok, so it would seem that Azeri people love their stews. I never though of it that way, but it would seem that we do! Buglama is another version of a “stew”. It is more formal (if food can be formal) and is usually served at weddings or other gatherings. To tell you the truth, I do not remember one occasion where my grandma made buglama at home.

Another beauty of Azeri kitchen is that dishes can be versatile. Buglama for example can be made with fish, chicken, lamb or beef (or I suppose tofu if you are a vegetarian). I have made this dish twice now, first time using swordfish. Was not a success. According to my husband it was too bland. Since traditionally it is made with lamb (like so many Azeri dishes), I opted for beef (because my husband does not like lamb all that much). All the while I worried about the flavor. See, the dish is just meat and vegetables and if no flavor is infused into it, it will taste…well like meat and vegetables. So I decided to remedy that by frying up the meat first. I chose some oxtail and ribs (the thick kind). After frying up the meat, I fried some onions. Then I layered the dish with vegetables and left it to stew for about an hour. I was not disappointed with the result this time.

Buglama

1 – 2 LB oxtail and beef ribs (or you can use lamb ribs)

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp pepper

2 cloves of garlic, diced

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 tbs butter or olive oil

2 green peppers, julienned

1 large tomato sliced

1/2 cup water

 

Melt the butter in the dutch oven (or any deep pan). Wait for butter to really heat up, then add the meat and quickly fry on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Chop up the onion and add to the pan, fry for a few minutes or until the onion softens and becomes clear. Add salt and pepper. Place the meat back into the pan, mix up with the onions. Add salt, pepper, diced garlic and coriander. Layer the rest of the vegetables on top (pepper and tomato). Add half a cup of water and let it boil/stew for about an hour or until the meat is softened up. Serve with white rice and garnish with dill!

Buglama

Adjab Sandal – Azeri beef stew

There is nothing more comforting than Meat and Potatoes, especially on a rainy, gloomy somewhat depressing (for other reasons) night. I must have made dozens of dishes whose main actors include the aforementioned. One thing always hold true: they never fail in taste. Be it the slow cooker beef stew, or the main character of this post (very similar to beef stew), they always taste great. They do evolve, but always remain true to their intended purpose: to satisfy and soothe the soul.

Adjab Sandal is the Azeri version of Beef Stew, with a few twists. One, there are tomatoes and eggplant present. Two, cinnamon. Yes. Cinnamon. It’s an ingredient present in main dishes, especially meat dishes quite often (among other spices). It gives the meat flavor unlike any other. It adds a certain kick to the dish. I love this dish. It’s relatively easy to make too.

Adjab Sandal

Adjab Sandal 

1 LB beef stew, or beef chuck cut up into small pieces

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp pepper

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 clove of garlic, diced

1 large onion, sliced into half rings

1/2 cup olive oil

3 large russet potatoes, sliced into circles

1 medium eggplant, or 1/2 a large eggplant

1 large tomato, sliced

1 cup water

Dill, chopped for garnish.

 

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium size bowl. Set aside for about 20 minutes. Heat up olive oil in a dutch oven pan (what is the proper name for them?). When oil is substantially hot, add the meat and fry up for a few minutes.

Marinated Meat

Marinated Meat

NOTE: this is where I always mess up, not sure why. My meat never starts frying right away. It releases juices, boils a little and then when the juices evaporate, starts frying. It may be because I crowd my meat, or because I don’t dry it enough so it retains water. Either way, I am yet to discover a way where I can fry it right away.

Once the meat is fried up add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onions soften.

Once done, add about 1 cup of water and let the mixture simmer for about 40 minutes on low heat, with the lid closed.

Then, add the sliced eggplants, potatoes and tomatoes (in that order) and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Don’t worry if this dish is ‘wetter’ than you’d like. It’s supposed to have water, so you can dip your bread in it!

When done, add chopped dill for garnish and additional flavor.

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Enjoy!

Quick Cooking Tips: Chicken and Grains

As I was making dinner last night, and it was not going the way I wanted it to, I drew a few conclusions for myself that I decided to share with you:
1) Always trust your gut (and the recipe timing) when cooking chicken. If the recipe says 45-60 minutes, I would lean toward the 60 minute mark to make sure the chicken cooks all the way. There is nothing more unappetizing than a bloody chicken..yuck. Besides, almost alway by looking at the chicken you can tell if it is ready or not. However there have been a few times where I was being inpatient and have taken the chicken out of the oven earlier than needed, simply because it “looked” cooked. A chicken needs at least one hour to cook (depending on the size, of course). But this is true for whether you are cooking a whole chicken, or parts. Also remember that the breast cooks faster than the rest of the chicken, so when testing the done-ness (not a word, I am sure) of the chicken with a thermometer, test the thighs preferably.
2) When cooking grains (rice, couscous, barley etc), always start with less water than more. For example, I boiled way too much water for the couscous so it ended up being a couscous soup, so to speak. Start with less water, and then you can add more if need be. Usually, for rice it’s a 2:1 ratio (2 cups of water 1 cup of rice). Still learning to navigate this though, so stay tuned!

Turkish Baklava

I made something deliciously evil last night. Evil – because of its high sugar content. Delicious – because of its high sugar content. Please disregard my uneven cutting technique. This, my friends, is Baklava. The Turkish/Greek kind I suppose. Azeri Baklava (Paxlava) is way harder to make, and requires hours of dough rolling. This Turkish treasure is easier to make, hence takes a fraction of the time and tastes just as good. The recipe can be found here: http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2010/06/baklava-with-pistachios-and-walnuts-fistikli-ve-cevizli-baklava/#comment-52321

Baklava

Baklava