Anyone who has lived any length of time in Beirut becomes enamored sooner or later with Armenian specialties; a cousin ordered one day a dish of sou beoreg from an Armenian lady she knew who was operating a little commercial kitchen from her home.
Sou beoreg is made with sheets and sheets of a pasta-like dough and stuffed with a cheesy filling. The silkiness and tenderness of the sheets of beoreg, glistening with butter are what delight the palate; the cheese and parsley filling cap the pleasure of the experience.
One could make this with boxed lasagne noodles; it just would not taste as good.
This is a dish that, if made properly, can be sublime.
Figure on spending an afternoon in the kitchen; enlist a friend and coordinate the steps. You could be rolling the dough and he (or she) could be boiling the sheets and draining them.
I followed a recipe in Anahid’s Gourmet Cookbook, one of the most popular cookbooks in Lebanon these days. (Adapted)
- 450 g of all-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups); (if you can get it, use Flour 00)
- 4 large eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
- 1/4 cup of water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- For the cheese filling: 1 package of mozzarella cheese and 1 package of string cheese (can substitute ricotta)
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of white pepper (or allspice)
- Soak the cheeses, cut into slices, in water in order to desalt them as much as possible. Drain the water every 20 minutes and re-soak with fresh water; the process should take about 2 hours. Taste and check if most of the saltiness is gone. Drain and dry the cheese on paper towels. Shred the cheeses, place in a bowl and mix with the eggs and the chopped parsley and some white pepper or allspice. If you cannot find string cheese, use ricotta cheese. The filling should weigh approximately 1 1/2 pounds for one large pan, about 9″X9″.
- Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor and add the salt. Process a few seconds and pour the eggs and water through the feed tube. When the dough clumps together and forms a compact mass, stop the machine. If it looks too dry, add a few tablespoons of milk or half an egg. It should be firm and shiny and not sticky.
- Divide the dough into 12 ping-pong balls. Cover with a towel and let it rest for an hour or so. (Wait longer and a crust will form, which is unsightly).
- Melt the 2 sticks of butter and let the butter simmer until the froth separates from the butter. Skim it and let it sit till needed.
- Roll out each ping-pong ball either with a manual pasta machine or a rolling pin. It needs to be as thin as possible. Sprinkle some flour on the counter if it sticks too much. Boil a large pot of salted water, and drop the free-form sheets in there and boil for one minute or so. Drain and lay out on towels.
- Spray or butter the pan; start layering the sheets of beoreg, ladling a half tablespoon of butter all over each layer. Fold over the excess dough. After 6 sheets, place the cheese filling over and spread it evenly throughout.
- Continue the process with the remaining 6 sheets of boiled dough. Score the sheets into squares. Sprinkle butter on top.
- Bake immediately in a 375F (190 C) oven or cover and bake the next day. When the sheets take on a golden color throughout, the sou beoreg is ready. Serve warm fresh from the oven.
NOTE: The string cheese is sold at Middle-Eastern groceries and is made in California. Ricotta or cottage cheese can be used instead. The butter can be mixed with oil, or replaced by margarine.
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