Today I am cooking Tavë kosi, the national dish of Albania!
I’m a huge fan of Eastern Mediterranean, Balkan, and Mediterranean-Middle Eastern foods – if I had to pick one geographic area’s cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, it’d be there. Tavë kosi hits a lot of my “heck yes” bullet points.
For those who just want the recipe, my preparation is translated and modified from the Rozmarina post about the dish. Lamb and chicken are both common meat bases for this dish so if lamb isn’t to your liking, chicken is an acceptable substitute. You can find rough equivalents on other sites in English and with Standard measurements if you don’t trust Google’s Translation (you shouldn’t it’s not great).
I didn’t hit this one out of the park on the first go – that’s okay! Cooking is like anything else, practice makes perfect and mastering a dish isn’t a one-time effort unless you’re a exceptionally skilled professional. Hopefully by showing where I believe my errors were made, I can help you from making the same mistake.
You will need either a stove-safe dutch oven (or a cooking pan and a lidded baking dish) and a small saucepan for this prep.
LET’S DO THIS:
- 1.5 (1 and 1/2) pounds lamb meat, cut into cubes 1-2″ in size
- 3/4 stick butter (divided into a half and a quarter)
- 2-3 cloves of shredded garlic
- 1/3 cup long grain or Basmati rice
- 2 Tablespoons of flour AND about 1/2 cup flour, separate from each other
- 1.25 (1 and 1/4) cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup (roughly) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (roughly) beef stock or broth
- 1/2 cup (roughly) water
- Dry oregano
- Dry sage
- Nutmeg (fresh grated ideal, dry OK)
- Salt and pepper
- (OPTIONAL, NOT TRADITIONAL) one shallot, very finely chopped
Prep on this (not accounting for rice soak) is roughly 30 minutes. Your time may vary.
Here’s what you’re going to do:
- Rinse your rice twice, soak for at least an hour, then rinse once more. Quick note, a lot of Basmati rice sold in conventional US grocery stores is processed and will not need to be soaked an hour – either reduce your soak (15 minutes or so) or get an unprocessed rice at an Indo-Pak, Deshi, etc. market.
- Using the 1/2 cup flour as a dredge and a couple tablespoons of olive oil + a pat of butter from the 1/4 stick reserve at a time, brown the lamb in batches in your cooking pan or dutch oven, deglazing with the beef stock in between each batch and reserving the liquid.
- If you are adding the shallot, lightly brown in some olive oil, then return the lamb to the pan. Add the garlic, sage, and oregano as well as the reserved deglazing pan drippings. Add water to just barely cover the meat.
- Cover the meat and simmer on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour until it’s very tender.
- About 30-40 minutes into the simmer, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Turn off the heat to the meat, stir in the soaked rice, salt, and pepper. Leave on the stove.
- In your saucepan, prepare a roux with the 1/2 stick butter and 2 tablespoons flour. The key to a good roux is patience and attention – I cannot emphasize how much patience and attention. You want a richly colored roux that isn’t burnt (if you get dark/black flecks, it’s burnt, and you’ve got to start over), to get this you need to whisk constantly and watch carefully. Melt the butter on medium high heat, gradually sprinkling in the flour and whisking constantly. You want a good golden color, this isn’t a Cajun style oil roux so not super dark (butter can’t handle the heat the same way).
- Lower the saucepan heat to low, remove the roux from the stove and whisk in the yogurt, then return to the stove briefly.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat (turn off the stove) and let slightly cool, then whisk in the beaten egg (you don’t want it to scramble) and some additional salt and pepper.
- Pour the yogurt sauce over the lamb, grate or sprinkle nutmeg on top
- Bake covered for 30-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let set 5-10 minutes before serving.
That’s it! Total time for me from beginning of prep to serving was about 3 hours, 45 minutes (12:00 to 15:45).