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Old 03-02-2010, 10:40 AM   #1
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Help Me Change a Traditional Cooking Method

When I was a child growing up in an Armenian-American household, there was a dish called herrseh that we didnít have very often and we all loved it. It was a production whenever Mom made it.

Herrseh was made by putting a large fowl and some hulled wheat in a pot full of water and simmering it for hours and hours (and hours). Then Mom would take the fowl out of the pot, remove all the bones and return the meat to the pot. The final step was to take a large spoon or similar utensil (Mom used a small wooden baseball bat) and stir the pot with vigor to break up the meat and smooth out the texture a little. The dish would then be served with brown butter.

There was always one negative to the whole process. Mom never got all the bones out of the pot because the fowl had long ago fallen apart in the pot, so several times during the meal youíd get a small piece of bone to deal with.

Flash forward to today. I have made this dish once. It was fine and, as much as I tried, a few bones got through. I used cheesecloth but that didnít work well.

All this background to ask for your help. I have a theory that should produce a herrseh that will taste as good as Momís but will be bone free. Tell me if you think Iíll be losing any flavor or texture with my proposed method. Iím making this dish for my sister and BIL later this month and want her to really enjoy it.

1. Simmer the whole fowl in the appropriate quantity of water for several hours to make a full-flavored broth and draw the collagen out of the bones.
2. Strain the broth and save it.
3. Carefully separate all the meat from the bones. Save the meat, toss the bones.
4. Add the hulled wheat to the stock and simmer until the wheat is fully cooked.
5. Towards the end of the cooking time for the wheat, add the meat back to the pot.
6. Beat thoroughly in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (I didnít keep the bat) to homogenize the texture.
7. Serve with brown butter.

My question is this:

Do I miss out on anything (other than bits of bone in my food) by using this method? I donít think I do. Just want to make sure Iím not missing anything important.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks,
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Old 03-02-2010, 10:45 AM   #2
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I think it would work, but it won't be as full of flavor as if you cook the chicken with the grain. However, why not put the chicken in a cheesecloth sack BEFORE cooking with the grain? then you could take it out and really remove all the bones, because even if the chicken had fallen apart, the whole thing would be contained.

Just a thought.
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Old 03-02-2010, 10:50 AM   #3
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I had tried that in my first attempt and was not happy with the results. It would involve cooking the dish ahead of time then removing the boiling hot fowl in the cheesecloth and waiting for it to cool so you can carefully separate the meat.

If I use the fowl to make the stock then add the meat back in to cook with the grain, why would it be less flavorful?
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:32 AM   #4
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The only thing I see that would make a really significant difference is using the mixer vs a spoon. There's a lot to be said for the inconsistency that comes from doing things by hand.

It doesn't look like you're going to mess with the flavor much by doing the stock separately. Maybe just a little for not having the bones present.

I'm curious Andy, how is this served?
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:45 AM   #5
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We serve it in a low, flat soup bowl. You make a depression in the middle and spoon in some of the brown butter.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:58 AM   #6
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I think your proposed idea should probably work Andy. Or what if you made stock, separately, but for the dish itself use boneless meat to start?

I also agree with James about mixer vs spoon. That is the only part of your idea that I think might not work as well as you hope.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:04 PM   #7
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GB: I think a large fowl is preferred for this dish. They are not usually available other than whole. The fowl, being an older bird has a different flavor from the smaller chickens we are accustomed to.

JamesS and GB: So you're saying the mixer might result in a smoother texture than is normal for the dish?
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
JamesS and GB: So you're saying the mixer might result in a smoother texture than is normal for the dish?
Yes, either smoother, more homogenized, or even possibly pasty texture if mixed too long or too hard.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Yes, either smoother, more homogenized, or even possibly pasty texture if mixed too long or too hard.
Exactly. Think of the difference between potatoes that have been whipped with an electric mixer and smashed with a masher. With the mixer they're smooth, almost liquidy. With the masher, they have irregularities that adds texture. There's nothing wrong with either, but they are distinctly different, even with the very same ingredients.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:56 PM   #10
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Great input. Thanks, guys.
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