I have several partners in crime on Chewing The Fat. The most obvious one is Andrew. He contributes regularly and is basically responsible for everything baked on the blog. Behind the scenes, his sister, Lauren is a big supporter. She uses a lot of the recipes, comments frequently and is a big help in proofreading. And this Christmas, she sent me a new Cookbook. “Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring The Diverse Cuisines of Turkey”(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2017)
Turkey was on my bucket list for a very long time. I’d hoped to get there on Viking Ocean which used Istanbul as its easternmost home port in the Mediterranean. Then President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office and with his arrival, terrorist attacks increased and Turkey was deemed unsafe by the U.S. Department of State which issued a travel alert advising against visiting Turkey in general and Istanbul in particular. Trump’s Muslim ban has done nothing to improve relations with the country which is 99.8 percent Muslim, one of whom is Erdogan himself. So much for visiting Turkey anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t visit the cuisine of the country which was precisely Lauren’s point in giving me “Istanbul and Beyond”.
Author Robyn Eckhardt and her photographer husband David Hagerman have spent almost 20 years traveling the country. In her introduction, Eckhardt explains why Turkish cuisine is so varied in a country 1/13th the size of the US. First Turkey fronts on four bodies of water and shares its borders with 8 countries: Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The country has been conquered and made home to emigrants. As a result it has one of the most complex of all gastronomies. So let the adventures into Turkish cooking begin with Mushrooms in Yogurt Cream with Dill.
The reason I’ve chosen the book as the lead illustration for this post is quite simple. The authors did not include a picture of Mushrooms in Yogurt Cream with Dill. And for good reason. This is one of those dishes that, by itself, is not the prettiest to look at as you can see in the photo on the left. Even this sprigs of Dill don’t really help. Even when I took part of the recipe and made a pasta sauce using Ground Pork and Cherry Tomatoes, it still didn’t win any marks for beauty. But in the realm of taste, it’s a complete winner.
In the realm of side dishes, this one adds a completely new dimension to one of my favorites: Mushrooms. First, the leeks provide a sweet counterpoint to the earthy flavor of the Creminis I used. And the addition of yogurt gives the dish a smooth tang and the dill just the right note that is both unexpected and delicious. And if you’ve ever used yogurt and had it curdle in the pan, you’ll be surprised here. The addition of the egg yolk keeps the yogurt creamy and not curdled. Then there’s the last word in the description of the recipe. Ms. Eckhardt writes “it’s also great tossed with penne”. That’s all I had to hear. I took a lb of ground pork, browned it, added the mushrooms, another 8 oz. of yogurt, a handful of Cherry Tomatoes and served it with Orecchiete. The result was delicious but, as you can see in the illustration to the right, still did not make the dish any more visually appealing.
Before I get to the recipe, let’s talk about the yogurt I used. Greek yogurt long since eclipsed the water-y overly sweet fruit bearing yogurt that introduced us to the stuff. We haven’t had anything else in the house in a long time. This recipe however makes it very specific. “1 Cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek-style).” Off to the supermarket I went. There on the shelf was a glass jar of Whole Milk Yogurt called “Oui” and labelled “French Style Yogurt” which is further expanded to say “Inspired by our original French recipe”. It’s from Yoplait. And last June, I read a whole long article in the New York Times Business Section about it.
Apparently, ours is not the only home that chose Greek yogurt over Yoplait or any other ‘old-fashioned’ runny, water-y yogurt. No, sales were hemorrhaging. And General Mills, the food giant that owns Yoplait was not happy. They went to work on a Yoplait Greek yogurt. They introduced it in 2010 and it immediately bombed. And every other attempt to conquer Chobani, Fage and Oikos met a similar fate. Sales of Yoplait dropped by $100 million. Faced with this kind of revenue loss, the wheels of the food giant churned out “Oui”. All the market research pointed to today’s consumer’s desired for authenticity. So it you are French, even marginally French like Yoplait, you can claim the mantel of authenticity if you stay within the bounds of believability. And in fact. “Oui” actually has a story that separates the brand just as much as its glass pots.
Dipping into its history, Yoplait found a take that resonated: For centuries, the story went, French farmers made yogurt by putting milk, fruit and cultures into glass jars and setting them aside. Enter Oui’s glass jars. And it pleases me to tell you that Yoplait did alter the way it makes “Oui”. A news release reads “Instead of culturing the ingredients in large batches and then filling individual cups, Oui…is made by pouring ingredients into each individual pot and allowing each glass pot to culture for eight hours, resulting in a uniquely thick, delicious yogurt.” I must confess I was impressed. It is thick, it is creamy and it is nothing like the Yoplait I remember. My only question was about the glass container. Then I realized: Every other yogurt comes in a plastic tub which is hardly environmentally friendly. Besides, Oui containers make wonderful votive holders.
Here is the recipe:
Mushrooms in Yogurt Cream with Dill
Creamy mushroom dish with a lively tart flavor
- 4 tsbp. unsalted butter
- 6 scallions white part only thinly sliced or 2 leeks white part only sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 pound mushrooms ( a single variety or a mix, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup Whole Milk Yogurt (not Greek)
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup minced fresh dill or 2 tbsp fragrant dried dill
- Step 1 Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks or scallions sprinkle over the salt and cook until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Step 2 Add the mushrooms and stir. They will absorb the butter immediately. Resist the urge to add more butter because they will eventually release juices into pan. If the mushrooms begin to stick, lower the heat and add a tablespoon of water. Cook until the mushrooms are very soft, 12 to 20 minutes depending on variety. If any moisture remains in the pan when the mushrooms are soft, cook it off.
- Step 3 While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk the yogurt, add a few grinds of freshly-ground pepper and the egg yolk and mix until smooth.
- Step 4 Stir the dill into the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low, add the yogurt mixture and stir to coat. Cook, stirring constantly to keep the yogurt from simmering, until hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.