Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pot O’Stuff - Chamin

A dear friend of mine was from France and grew up in Morocco. Her cooking reflected those areas along with a strong influence from Israel. She loved to cook for everyone but would share her recipes with nobody. She took all of her secretes with her when she passed.

For Shabbat she would seemingly just throw random meats, vegetables and spices into the pot and the results were always fantastic. It has taken me years to find the name for this dish (chamin) and I have yet to be able to reproduce it. Part of the problem is I don’t always follow recipes and neither did she. With years of practice and experimentation you develop a knack to know what goes together and what combinations you want to avoid. Another part of the problem is the use of herbs and spices. Each region of the world has their own idea of what herbs and spices work well together and what they should be used with. When sampling one dish I might be able to identify all of the herbs and spices used while another dish may leave me clueless. Since I love sampling different foods and have to work around various food allergies, mine and others, I have learned to try new combinations. For example growing up having cinnamon sugar on French toast or pancakes was common. Now that I cook for someone allergic to cinnamon I now use cardamom in place of cinnamon in many recipes.

So after years of trying to reproduce my friend’s version of chamin I’m getting a little closer but still not there. A new coworker found a new recipe for me to try and translated it into English for me. Of course as soon as I got the recipe home, I ignored it. Well, okay I didn’t completely ignore it. I used it as a guideline along with my memory of what I saw her do as she tossed together this simple delight.

The new recipe called for…

1.25 cups dried chickpeas (soak overnight)

.25 cup vegetable oil

Cow leg (optional)

1 chopped onion

4 garlic cloves (chopped)

1 cup of rice

3 lb of cubes of lamb meat

1 chicken (in pieces)

6 eggs

3 pilled chopped carrots

1 small chopped cabbage

2 mint springs

3-4 cups of water

1 spoon of Cumin

Salt and black pepper

And then there is what I used….

1 can chickpeas

olive oil

1 pk boneless beef ribs

1 onion quartered

2 garlic cloves

1 c rice

2 chicken boneless breast

2 carrots – pealed

2 red potatoes

3 pinches of dried mint

1 pinch of cumin

salt & black pepper corns

I heated the oil with spices and seared the beef before tossing everything in the pot. I brought the mixture to a boil then turned it back to the lowest flame on the smallest burner on the stove. Three hours latter it was wonderful…. But still missing something. One of the other recipes he didn’t translate called for paprika, hmmmm, maybe in the next chamin experiment.

The recipe called for a special bag for the chickpeas. I didn’t bother for the chickpeas but I did use cheese cloth and a cotton string to contain the rice. I made the bag about 1 ½ times the size of the rice so it would form the solid rice mass that I remembered my friend making. The texture is very different and a nice change when you eat a lot of rice dishes.

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