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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)

Lahmacun (pronounced lah-mah-jhoon) is probably the only recipe that calls for copious amounts of parsley that I love. For whatever reason, the mix of meats, vegetables and spices seems to negate some of that sharp parsley taste that disagrees with me.

Lahmacun is a very thin pizza without cheese. It's topped with ground lamb, onions, garlic, parsley and spices, then baked until golden brown. You can use store bought pizza dough, or if you have a bread machine, you can make your own. (You can, of course, make your own without a bread machine but I like dumping it all the ingredients into one place and letting it do all the work for me.) My pizza dough recipe comes from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys homemade bread. Furthermore, Beth Hensperger suggests using SAF yeast when making breads. After some experimentation, I've come to realize she knows what she's talking about. If you're going to make your own anything in the bread machine, get yourself a bag of this yeast. It lasts forever and makes beautiful doughs and breads.

The recipe for lahmacun is a combination of many different recipes. If you find that you like lahmacun, play with the ingredients yourself. Just remember to stretch your dough very, very thinly to create very thin crust. It still tastes great with a thicker crust, but it's not as authentic.

Beware! This makes a LOT of pizza--six or eight smallish pizzas! Because it's thin, more than likely you'll eat one per adult. But with a small family, you'll definitely have leftovers.

For the dough:
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast or 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Add ingredients to your bread machine according to the manufacturer's directions. Set to dough cycle. Take out of the machine immediately and divide into desired number of portions. Flatten each portion into a disc. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes until the dough has increased in size by 20%.

2. Roll out and shape dough. Lahmacun are not perfectly round, so the more lopsided, the better. Or place dough in plastic food storage bags and refridgerate for up to 24 hours. To use, let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

For the lahmacun topping:
1 lb ground lamb (or 1/2 lb ground lamb, 1/2 lb ground beef)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 large tomato, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 jalapeƱo pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Set aside and let cool.

2. In a large bowl, combine rest of ingredients as well as onion and garlic mixture. Mix very well until mixture resembles a thick paste.

3. Roll out dough into ovals that are approximately 6-x 8-inches in diameter. Spread about 4-5 heaping tablespoons of lamb mixture over each. Place one or two on a large cookie sheet (whatever fits) and cook for 10-15 minutes; crust should be golden brown and topping should be browned as well. Cover cooked lahmacun with a towel as subsequent pizzas are cooked. Serve immediately.

The Verdict: Gosh, these are yummy. Like, "my belly hurts because I didn't stop eating in time" yummy.

Kind of like pancakes, I find that my first couple of crusts that I roll out aren't quite right. In my case, they're too thick. But like I mentioned above, while that's not traditional, it still tastes fantastic.

My husband and I both enjoyed them immensely (hence "my belly hurts"...although that might just have been me) and my son ate a couple of small slices. He recognized it as pizza by site, but his American senses weren't fooled by taste. The excitement of pizza for dinner quickly faded. If you have a child who loves pizza, call it lahmacun to avoid any disappointment.

I know some people see lamb as an ingredient and keep searching for a dinner recipe. Before you dismiss this because of that, consider making it with just ground beef. I've even made it with ground turkey before. While I try to limit our lamb consumption (yeah, I'm one of those suckers who can't separate "but it's a lamb--a fluffy, cute lamb!"), I do still love it. And if given the choice of turkey or lamb, I'm going to choose lamb. That slightly gamey flavor is part of the appeal of the dish.

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