Chasing a Memory

strained yogurt with dill

My first taste of lamb came in my friend Leah’s kitchen – one of them, anyway – when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Her parents, both college professors, were divorced, and they maintained separate households on either side of East Warren Avenue. Both of them were avid cooks, and I was exposed to all sorts of new flavors during the course of my friendship with Leah (her dad’s fried provolone sandwich really merits it’s own post), but there’s one dish I had when we were hanging out that has been stuck in my head lately.

Leah’s mom referred to it as fried kibbeh, though I recall it being a bit lighter on the bulgur and heavier on the lamb than other versions I’ve tried. The thing that really made her mom Anne’s version special was the filling – each crisp patty was stuffed with a spoonful of yogurt, so when you took a bite, you got the flavors of rich, juicy lamb mingling with a molten, tangy center. It was pretty racy stuff, especially to my newly developing palate, and the memory of it still makes me close my eyes and sigh.

Dinner:  May 13, 2009

So I’m a little sad to report that my first attempt to recreate those swoon-worthy lamb patties was a bit of a disappointment. Oh, sure, they were tasty: the lamb was juicy and flavorful, seasoned with salt and cinnamon, cumin and coriander and a whole mess of finely chopped shallots, but I just couldn’t get that warm, saucy yogurt center to stay intact. I’m eager to try again, though, especially since we get such wonderful yogurt from Narragansett Creamery, and because the bright, fresh flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine are so welcome as we transition into warmer weather.

5 thoughts on “Chasing a Memory

  1. disappointment or not, props for giving it a go and for hitting the flavor spot on! not to mention they are lovely little things next to that awesome couscous salad and – of course – flatbreads!



  2. Wow, that looks delicious, even w/o the stuffing you hoped for. Some googling led me to see that other people stuff their kibbeh with goat cheese…which I could see staying intact better than yogurt alone, but getting all melty…maybe you could mix some goat cheese in your stuffing mix?

    In any case, I think you’ve inspired an upcoming dinner to be sure. Yum.

  3. Lamb kebabs with yogurt sauce is one of my favorite foods in the world. Filling the centers with yogurt is a really cool idea, but does sound difficult to pull off. What if you drained the yogurt to firm it up? I’ll have to look through my middle eastern cookbooks to see if anyone does a version of this.

  4. Jennifer Hess says:

    heather – Thanks!

    Christine – Oh, goat cheese sounds great. I might just try that!

    Jessamyn – Yeah, I think the next time I try it, I’m going to drain the yogurt a bit more than I did this time, probably until it’s more of a yogurt cheese. Please do let me know if you find something similar in one of your cookbooks – I couldn’t find anything in the one I have (the name escapes me at the moment)

  5. I love this. I make lamb sliders on mini pitas with tzatziki sauce just like this. They are so good! Lamb burgers are so cute and gourmet without being fussy.

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