Chapter 14: Kasarli Tavuk (Turkey)

It’s been a long hiatus! And a pretty disconcerting one at that. And one thing that I understood undeniably yet again is that when your mind is not in the right place, you cannot cook your masterpieces!
Having moved away from Bangalore, my city of friends, love and freedom, I was a little jittered, and my mind was definitely not at peace. But what made it worse was my horrendous work place politics! It made it downright depressing enough for me to survive there let alone have a healthy mind and soul to cook.
I started suffering from severe health issues and I was always agitated with everything going on..
I still remember that one night I came back home from office (with a lot of different things having had gone down there) and I laid on my bed fighting hard to find the will to live. I cried myself to sleep that night and decided on taking a charge of things and my life instead of feeling depressed and out of wits!
The next morning I quit!
That was probably one of the best decisions of my life.
I didn’t have a job but what I did have was the belief in myself. I packed my boxes up and came back to Bangalore. It was a trying time but one of self cognizance. And although I wish no one has to go through the same shit, where your confidence seems to be shattered beyond repair, I am glad I learnt a little bit more about myself then. And had the strength to pick up the pieces and shape them up again. 🙂
A few solo trips, some good home cooked food and loving later, I found myself back again!
And yes, although I had been cooking meanwhile and taking random shots of the dish “in the making” with my phone, every time with the hope that maybe with “this one” I can sort of revisit my blog again, none of them really seemed ‘good enough’ to sit down with and pen down a story about…
Recently, I’ve had a lot of my friends urging me to get back to it and an external boost always helps!
A few close school friends recently got married and calling them over for a nice cozy Sunday lunch seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a masterpiece again!
Turkish cooking has always eluded me because it is a difficult cuisine to get right. Being pretty close in its use of spice with India, I am always amazed how beautifully different and subtle the flavors turn out to be.
So with my new found vigor and lots of boost ups, I set out in the kitchen to make one of the most beautiful looking dishes from the land of the beautiful Turk-mosques, the whirling Dervishes and of course Troy!
There is a beautiful saying in Turkish as a blessing for the newlyweds:
Bir yastıkta kocasınlar
Meaning, “May they grow old with one pillow”. A way of wishing the newlyweds and blessing them so that they never go to bed angry and have the strength to resolve all their troubles always.
Such a beautiful one isn’t it. 🙂
So this goes out to all my lovelies who tied the knot recently or are about to..
May your wedded life be full of hopes and dreams and strength for one another.
My best wishes and Congratulations to all of you!!!

Coming to this dish, Tavuk means chicken in Turkish and Kasarli is a special type of Turkish stringy cheese, which I have replaced with mozzarella here.
Disclaimer: I have made quite a few edits (along with the change of cheese) to the original Kasarli Tavuk, but the end result was delish and pretty Turkish! ❤

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chicken Breast boneless kept whole 8 – 10
  • 20 cloves of Garlic – crushed
  • 2 big White Onions – sliced finely
  • 2 big Red Bell Peppers – sliced finely
  • 2 big tomatoes – cut in big cubes
  • 300 gms White Button Mushrooms – Sliced in half
  • 4 teaspoons Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Dried Thyme
  • Sweet Paprika – to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted Cumin paste
  • 5-6 Chilies (it is best if you are able to get your hands on some Aleppo pepper, it’s a little milder and red in color. However I didn’t so I just took a handful of the green ones available in the market)
  • Lemon – 2 big
  • Whisked yogurt 1/2 cup
  • 2 teaspoons Chili oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Black Peppercorns
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • 100gms Mozzarella cheese – shredded
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil

 

METHOD:

STEP ONE (Prepping the Tavuk and other choppings):

Trim off any excess chicken fat from the sides of the chicken breasts and marinate it with salt, lime juice (leave in the peels for extra flavor), sweet paprika and around half of the crushed garlic. Give all the chicken pieces a nice rub and keep it cling wrapped in the fridge for at least 4 hours for the meat to really soak in the lemony goodness.

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Next wash and halve the mushrooms, slice the bell-peppers and white onions and roughly chop the tomatoes to big cubes.

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STEP TWO (Grilling the chicken):

Once the chicken is marinated nicely, its time to pan grill them with some olive oil.
If you don’t have a grill pan or a barbeque set, you can grill it in the oven.
For Grill Pan : get your pan really really hot and pour in about 3 teaspoons of olive oil and coat the pan with it. Next place the chicken breasts on the pan and keep the flame on high for about 2-3 minutes till it gets nice char grill marks. Now put the flame on low and cook for another 10 minutes before turning over your chicken pieces and repeating the same.
Optional: Deglaze the pan with a few drops of apple cider vinegar and keep the pan juices. We will use it at a later stage.

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For grilling in Barbeque or Oven: brush some olive oil on the chicken breasts and then put them in the oven and cook it in 200 C for about 15 minutes (the chicken should have nice grill marks) and the turn around and cook for 10 minutes more.

The chicken should still feel soft and be about 80% cooked through with a nice golden grill marked skin on top. Take out the chicken and let it rest.

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STEP THREE (Sautéing the veggies):

I treated the vegetables differently from one another and the results were so awesome because of that.
Charring the tomatoes: Get a wok and get it scalding hot and throw in the chopped tomatoes. The skin will instantly char, and then add a few drops of olive oil to it and sauté it for sometime with a pinch of sugar. (Sugar helps accentuate the sour tomato juices and creates a nice blend)

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Caramelizing the Onions and Bell peppers: Next add a few more drops of olive oil and a dash of butter and given in the sliced onions and 2 teaspoons of sugar to help caramelize it better.

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Once the onions get soft and translucent add in the bell peppers and sauté for around 15 minutes till the bell peppers turn soft.
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The mushrooms and the chilies will have to wait till the next step!

STEP FOUR (Römertopf, The Clay pot cooking):

Slow cooking in a closed clay pot will always give you the best results and is key to turkish cooking. However instead of baking it in a clay pot, the traditional Turk way, I cooked with on a a very low flame with a closed lid, essentially mimicking the same technique. (To get a better smoky flavor you can get some burning hickory woodchips and putting it on top of the clay pot lid and covering it tightly with a silver foil.

Cooking with a clay pot is an elaborate process but it’s well worth it.
Read how-to-use-and-maintain-clay-cookware for details on how to prep and clean your clay pot.
Make sure you heat your seasoned clay pot on a very low flame at first and gradually increase the flame. Once your clay pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. When the butter starts to bubble, put in the rest of the crushed garlic and the cumin paste.

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Once it starts crackling, put in the caramelized onions and peppers, the charred tomatoes, the mushrooms and the chilies. You can also add the pan juices which you deglazed in step 2.

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Next whisk in a few drops of chilli oil (adding the chilli oil is optional, although it does help with the taste big time) with your beaten yogurt and add this to the clay pot and give everything a nice big stir.

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Let the vegetables simmer in its own juices and the butter for about 45 minutes and then place in the grilled chicken breasts carefully. Make sure you make nice little compartments for each of your chicken breasts, place them in there and then coat it with the simmering goodness. Sprinkle in some Oregano, Thyme, black peppercorns, salt and sweet paprika and give it all a good stir.
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Close the lid and cook on low for about 45 minutes more.
After 45 minutes, open the lid, and sprinkle a layer of the mozzarella cheese and close and cook for about 15 minutes more to get that nice melting layer on top.
Take it of heat, and serve hot!
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Serve this with a side of Naan or Turkish Pilaf. You can find the recipe of Turkish Pilaf here: Chapter 13: Turkish Pilaf (Turkey)

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5 thoughts on “Chapter 14: Kasarli Tavuk (Turkey)

  1. In the cauldron of life you have become more mature and I hope you would gain more and more strength in overcoming your woes without the hardship.
    Soar high and show us your achievements.

    Looking good; must taste great too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know u love complex cooking but the lucidity of your recipe always ensures minimum confusion to the reader . I throughly enjoy your write up and presentation as well ….give us a treat some day .

    Like

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