Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Albania

(Originally posted here.)

Another post, another last minute run to Whole Foods.  This time it was for mint.  *Sigh*  Amy, maybe you should come visit me and I can send you to Whole Foods and you can be happy it is so close!

Kevin and I have a leftover problem in this house.  When we woke up this Saturday, we had two servings of beef stew, veal, almost an entire pot of chili, and multiple servings of chop suey.  This is fairly commonplace.  Therefore, I decided to make this Monday (last week, the 15th) so that we could eat leftovers on Sunday.  The holidays are going to screw with my schedule even more...

More on leftovers next time.

Anyway, onto some facts:

Albania

Size: Slightly smaller than Maryland
Population: About 3 million (2010 estimate)
Religion: Estimated to be about 70% Muslim, but all mosques and churches were closed in 1967 and not allowed to reopen until 1990.
Cuisine: Heavily influenced by Greece, Turkey, and Italy

Sources: CIA Factbook, Wikipedia

This time, I wanted to make sure that the recipe was at least most likely authentic.  What I decided to do was cross-reference multiple sites.  If multiple places told me it was an Albanian recipe, that had to be true, correct?  Through multiple searches, I came up with:

http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Jani_me_Fasul
and
http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Gjell%C3%AB_me_Arra_t%C3%AB_Ellit

Both were on multiple websites.  The soup sounded like something I wouldn't normally have, and veal is always good, right?  Plus someone in the house doesn't like lima beans, otherwise I would have made that recipe...

The bean soup was going to take a while, so I thought I would start with that.
They get all wrinkly while in water...
There are ALWAYS onions, even though we don't like them...

Something just didn't seem right with all of this stuff, but I just followed the recipe.  It was now time to start the veal.
Veal and white beans...together at last?
At this point I started getting a little suspicious.  It seemed like there wasn't a lot of liquid in the soup.  So I looked for other versions of the recipe.  You know the one I found on multiple websites?  It was the same everywhere I looked.  That's right, apparently there is one Albanian person supplying this recipe, word for word, multiple places, not-entirely-clear directions and all.  Finally, I found one that varied.  But it called for chicken stock rather than water and seemed a bit easier to understand.  Oh boy.  Too late to turn back now.

Then I got to a direction in the veal I was unsure about.  It may be common in cooking, but I have never had to brown flour before.  Not flour with something, just flour, in a pot.  So I looked for other recipes to make sure I was interpreting it correctly.  Same problem as the previous recipe.  Apparently this Albanian cook gets around.  Except I didn't even find one variation.  I was stuck.  I had to do what I thought they wanted me to.
Flour!  In a pot!  On the stove!
You may be wondering, where was Kevin in all of this?  It was a work day, so for a lot of it he wasn't home.  When he did get there, I had a task for him...
Not-so-great nutcracker + Jumbo walnuts = needing Kevin's help.
He doesn't even like walnuts.  Then he was done.
More MarioKart, of course.
After the flour was browned, I added the butter, and it started smelling really good.  Who knew that those two things alone could create such a delicious aroma?  Add in the other ingredients, and the smell was wonderful.  I was really excited for this.
That looks browned, right?

Someday that table will get cleared...
Yummy smelling
I did end up adding some extra water.
Final verdict?

Not so hot.

The soup was pretty boring.  Maybe I should have added more chili powder.  White beans are pretty bland.  They have the texture of other beans, but no taste.  The soup wasn't offensive, but I would have never chosen to eat it on my own.  We threw out the leftovers.

The first few bites of the veal were good.  But then it got...heavy.  I couldn't not bring myself to eat a full serving.  It may have been the cut of veal.  But I felt like it just sat in my stomach and weighed me down.  I was sorely disappointed.

One reason this took me so long to write is that I wanted to tell you how the leftovers were.  It took me this long to bring myself to eating it again.  Same experience.  The first few bites are good.  Then it gets heavy.  I ate half a serving for lunch yesterday.  That's right, I opted for a hot pocket rather than veal for the other half.  That has got to be a sign of something.

Maybe these dishes are wonderful, and I did something wrong.  Not sure.  But these ones don't come recommended from me.

It still smelled amazing, though.

Previous: Afghanistan
Next: Algeria

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