I first fell in love with adjaruli khatchapuri, also known as Georgian cheese bread or cheese boat, at Marani Restaurant in Queens, N.Y. This cheesy-carby deliciousness is basically all the comfort food you could possibly crave in one single dish: cheese, runny egg yolk and butter, all being held by homemade bread.
Khatchapuri and khinkali, a dumpling most often stuffed with meat and spices, are two of Georgia’s most recognizable dishes (and yes, I am talking about the country, not the state). They are pure comfort food, even if you’ve never been exposed to Georgian food. Georgian cuisine reflects influences from Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Armenia, and prominently features walnuts and several unique Georgian spices.
The Jews of Georgia date back to the Byzantine Empire and have had a long existence in the country. Separate from the Ashkenazi Jews who lived in Russia, they maintained a unique culture all their own, which was influenced by the diverse surroundings of the region and the Silk Road, the ancient routes of trade through Eurasia.
Since my introduction to khatchapuri a few years ago, I have traveled back to Marani several times, but I wanted to enjoy this cheesy specialty in the comfort of my own home, so I recently set out to conquer the dish.
This dough is very easy to make, comes together quickly and doesn’t require a long rise. Which means you don’t have to feel intimidated about making it at home. Could you use a store-bought pizza dough? Absolutely, just keep in mind it will not stretch quite as easily or as large as the traditional khatchapuri dough, which is softer. Also, it’s not quite as authentic. Not that I am judging.
After many trial runs and some research, I suggest using a combination of mozzarella cheese, Muenster cheese and brynzda, which is feta-like. I found that feta can be too salty for this dish, so if you cannot find brynza but have access to several different kinds of cheese, go for one that is slightly less salty, such as a Bulgarian-style.
(Shannon Sarna is the editor of The Nosher.)
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.
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