And now we’re back to a land where horsemeat is common on the dinner plate! Again let me reassure you that: A-I’m not going to make a burger out of horse meat (pretty sure it would be really difficult to find a legitimate source in Boston), and B-the horses used for food in Kyrgyzstan are raised, much the same we raise cattle here. Nobody is shooting My Little Pony in the street, so let’s back up. We’re here in the Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan.
The Kyrgyz Republic is located in Central Asia bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. It is a former Soviet republic. It is mountainous and beautiful, poor and troubled.
Kyrgyz history goes back to around 200 B.C., and it travels from Mongolia through Northern and Central Asia. The Kyrgyz fought Russian control with one particularly nasty revolt resulting in the death of 1/6 of the Kyrgyz population in 1916. Once the Soviet Union dissolved, Kyrgyzstan entered a period of government corruption, mismanagement and ethnic conflict.
What they do have in the Kyrgyz Republic is a rich tradition hospitality and a love of food. The food of Kyrgyzstan is not fancy; it’s based on meat and dairy. And one thing I love is that they love good bread, all different kinds of bread. Because of the poor growing conditions and the lack of infrastructure (like a reliable power grid), they often pickle vegetables and use soured milk products rather than more perishable ones. It was easy to develop a burger recipe around these traditions.
This was the perfect opportunity to grind my own meat. I’ve been hearing a lot about using short ribs in a burger so I grabbed some boneless short ribs and a little bit of sirloin and mixed them with garlic to make a basic but flavor filled patty. By grinding the garlic in with the meat, you get the taste of garlic through each bite. I combined this flavorful patty with a home made roll stuffed with grilled onions. This tradition of stuffed breads is one of my favorites; it brings flavor to every bite and is worth the effort of making your own bread (this from a woman who hates baking!).
Pickling the vegetable is easy – I tried using different vinegars, white wine and cider, but I’m not sure it made a huge difference, so use what you have. It would only be noticeable if you used a super flavorful vinegar like sherry vinegar or balsamic – just use a wine or cider vinegar and you’ll be happy with the results. Lastly I used some labne. Labne, in terms of flavor and texture, is a cross between a cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt. If you can’t find it, I’ve also used quark and Vermont Creamery makes a Fromage Blanc that has a similar flavor. If none of those were available, I’d go with sour cream. I think yogurt is just a little sharp and overpowering for such a simple burger.
The result of all of this is a beef and garlic lover’s burger. Make sure you don’t skimp on salt and enjoy the pure taste of beef. If this sounds good to you, you should also try the Argentina burger – it is another celebration of meat with a different flavor accent. Enjoy.
2/3 pound sirloin tips
1 pound boneless beef short ribs (excess fat trimmed)
3 cloves garlic
4 Kyrgyz rolls (recipe below) (you can substitute ciabatta)
6-8 Tablespoons Labne
Pickled red pepper (recipe below)
Pickled carrots (recipe below)
Cut the meat into 1-2 inch cubes and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Smash the garlic cloves and add to the meat. Grind the meat along with the garlic on the smallest setting and form 4 patties. Generously salt and pepper each patty. Fry the patties in a cast iron skillet to desired temperature (depending on the fat content of your meat blend, you may want to add a little oil to the pan, my ribs had enough fat that I didn’t need to add more).
To assemble the burgers, slice each roll in half and spread a liberal amount of labne on each. Add pickled red pepper slices, the cooked patties then the pickled carrots. Top with the other half of the roll.
1 cup tepid water
1½ Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
Combine the water, sugar and yeast and let sit until it begins to foam. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix until it forms a dough ball (you can add more flour if it’s too sticky or more water if it’s too dry). Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled glass bowl and let rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, fry the onions in a cast iron pan with vegetable oil until the onions are golden. Portion the dough into balls then flatten each roll and put a scoop of cooked onions on each disc. Fold the dough over the onions and make into a ball again. Then flatten the roll to about ¼-½ inch thick.
Heat ¼ inch of vegetable oil in cast iron skillet until shimmering. Place the dough discs into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, then flip it over and fry the other side until it’s a nice toasty brown. Place on paper towel until ready to use
Pickled Red Peppers
1 red pepper sliced thin
Placed the sliced red pepper in a glass jar then cover with vinegar. Cover and let sit for at least an hour before using.
1 carrot sliced thin (use a mandoline)
White wine vinegar
½ teaspoon whole pepper corns
Place carrots in a glass jar then add vinegar to cover and peppercorns. Stir or shake to make sure each carrot slice gets coated. Cover and let sit for at least an hour before using.
Note: both pickle recipes will make more than you need. I suggest you use the left over in a nice cole slaw. I try not to make recipes that use half of a vegetable, so you can, of course, just use half a carrot and half a red pepper and make less.
©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach