(Turkmen shredded meat and bread stew)
Simplicity can sometimes yield a culinary miracle. Dograma, a simple and nourishing stew of shredded meat, bread and onions from Turkmenistan, is one of those miracles.
Dograma — the name comes from the Turkmen word meaning "to chop up" — is special occasion food and is sometimes called the national dish of Turkmenistan. Huge amounts are made for religious holidays and other celebrations, and preparing it can be an all-day affair.
To start, large amounts of çörek, a pita-like flatbread, are baked in tandyr ovens. Separately, large pots of mutton or beef simmer slowly in water with just a little chopped tomato and salt added for flavor.
Once the bread is baked, it is torn into small pieces — the whole family usually chips in with this task — and the bread gets tossed with thinly sliced onion.
When the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, it is shredded by hand and mixed with the bread and onions, along with a good grinding of pepper. The whole lot is then put into large serving bowls and the simmering meat broth is poured over to moisten everything. After the flavors and textures have melded for a bit, the delicious dish is portioned out for well deserving diners.
If that sounds like more work than you're willing to put in at home, never fear! Making a family-sized batch is actually very easy. Buy prebaked pita, and you can whip up a tempting batch in an hour or less.
4 to 6 servings
- Add the meat, water, tomatoes and salt to a large pot and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and tender. (Note: Using a pressure cooker will cut the cooking time in half and make your meat even more tender and your broth richer.)
- While the meat is cooking, cut or tear the pita or naan bread into small (1/2-inch) pieces. Add the pieces of bread to a large bowl, along with the sliced onions and a good grinding of pepper. Toss and set aside to rest and mix the flavors.
- Remove the cooked meat from the broth with a slotted spoon. Use clean hands or a fork to shred the meat. Add the meat to the bowl with the bread and onion mixture and toss well.
- Pour the hot meat broth over the mixture in the bowl, and then cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors and textures to meld.
- Portion out into bowls and serve.
- Meats: Fairly fatty meat is preferred in Turkmenistan, but you can use leaner cuts. Use rib cuts or add some bones to the pot when cooking the meat for even more flavor.
- Vegetables: It's not at all traditional, but you can add some chopped spinach, chard or other tender greens to the bread-onion mixture to give your dograma an extra punch of flavor, texture and nutrition.