Fërgëse of Tirana with Lamb (Albania)

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: Welcome to the second installation in our round-the-world cooking trip.  This offering is a national dish of Albania (Tirana is the Albanian capital! *the more you know*), and is usually made with veal or beef liver.  However, for the sake of our wallets, we opted not to use those meats.  Lamb is another common meat used in Albanian cuisine, and since neither of us had cooked or eaten lamb before, we decided we’d take the opportunity to try something new, so we substituted that instead.

saucy lamb

The lamb actually came out perfectly cooked, and I thought this was a really tasty dish.  Erik did not agree so much, but I am admittedly more carnivorous than he is, and aside from the lamb, I think he was pretty pleased with our outcome.  In theory you could substitute something like potatoes instead of meat if you’re vegetarian, but keep in mind that the sauce is very heavy, so you kind of need something earthy and solid to stand up to it.  If you do try potatoes, let us know how it works for you — it would be nice to have a way to make this vegetarian!

Fërgëse of Tirana with Lamb
(slightly modified from original recipe, found here)

1 lb lamb, veal, potatoes, or other meat-like option, sliced into one-inch cubes
1/2 lb feta cheese
1 tbsp flour
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
Salt, pepper, and chili flakes, to taste

Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan, and get your oven preheating to 350F.  Once you’ve chopped your meat and onions, add those to the pan, and sauté for about 15 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

lamb: looks surprisingly like beef

While that is happening, melt your butter in a smaller pan.  Note that the original recipe for this uses a full stick of butter.  That is NOT necessary.  Seriously, we’re talking Paula Deen excessive here — we used a full stick and ended up draining several tablespoons of butter out of the final product.  So, we halved it in our recipe here, and hopefully that’ll make for a less-oily sauce when you give this a try.

Add some salt, pepper, and chili flakes to the butter in whatever amounts seem good to you.  Then crumble the feta into the butter a bit at a time, stirring as you go.  This does not incorporate very easily, so it may take some patience — although some of our difficulty may have been, again, because we were using absurd amounts of butter.

cheese + butter

Now, let’s just take a breather here and think about this dish for a second.  Meat, cheese, and butter are the primary ingredients.  It is scientifically impossible for it to be un-delicious.  Bear that in mind while you are trying to incorporate half a pound of cheese into melted butter — it is worth the effort.

Okay, moving on.  Add your cheese/butter sauce to the pan with the meat and onions, stir so that the sauce is evenly distributed, and slide the whole pan into your oven for about 10 minutes (make sure you’re doing this with an oven-safe pan, kids!).

hearty peasant food

Stir again (feel free to spoon off any excess butter you might have… you can see we have a LOT), and serve.  We recommend using rice as a base for this — it’s very rich and so something plain and starchy like rice helps temper it.  Enjoy!

not bad, albania, not bad

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