About a week into the June Cookbook Challenge, Elizabeth took a look at my nightstand and noticed Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson. Specifically, she noticed the tagline indicating ‘120 adventurous recipes that explore the riches of our first food.’ She pointed it out to me with a grimace: “Another cookbook?”
“No way,” I said, realizing we already had 29 books to work through over the course of the month. “It’s food writing. A history book.” She wasn’t buying it, so I asked her to pick a page number at random. Naturally, her choice took us right to a recipe…so much for relying on chance.
And thank goodness! After resigning myself to the fact that I had inadvertently brought one more cookbook into our house, I set about finding a recipe to make. In a section of the book focusing on cultured milk products (primarily yogurt), I found a recipe for çilbir and I figured I struck gold.
Details on çilbir – what it is, how you make it, and why you should – after the jump.
Çilbir (pronounced ‘Chill-ber’) is a dish that combines the silky richness of poached eggs with the creamy tartness of plain yogurt in a warm and inviting blend that has already entered our repertoire as a go-to breakfast favorite. It amazes me that we haven’t heard more about this Turkish standby before! Our friends over at Endless Simmer have been cataloging bloggers’ egg recipes for more than two months now, and I couldn’t find a single dish on their list that uses yogurt and eggs like this. Hopefully they’ll add this one and remedy that.
And çilbir is incredibly simple to make – it really takes only a little more effort than a basic poached egg. The first added step? Preheat your oven to its lowest setting (180 degrees, for us) so that it’s basically just keeping things warm. Start with a yogurt-garlic sauce made by pounding two cloves of garlic into a paste and mixing them with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt (we used yogurt purchased at the farmers’ market from Keswick Creamery). Done.
Pour this yogurt into two 1 1/2 to 2-cup ramekins and set them into the oven to warm. Then prep a saucepan for poaching four eggs, adding 1 tablespoon of distilled or cider vinegar to the boiling water before lowering the heat to a simmer. Poach the eggs as you normally would (we like to do them one at a time while swirling the water to create that nice, tight, appearance. Add two eggs to each of the ramekins, season with salt and pepper, and set them back into the oven.
Melt 1/8 cup butter in a saucepan and add 1/2 tablespoon mild or hot paprika (we used a Hungarian paprika we had on hand), stirring it around to turn it into a reddish-orange clarified butter. Remove the ramekins from the oven, drizzle them with a bit of the butter, and top them with a few chopped chives.
Since making this dish for the first time, we’ve tried it again with a few modifications. We omitted the garlic, opting for straight yogurt as the base, and we simply sprinkled paprika over the eggs and yogurt instead of mixing the paprika with melted butter. Frankly, it was a lighter and tangier flavor (and an easier clean-up), so we’re likely to stick with this more simplified version going forward.
Do yourself a favor and try it soon – we were absolutely blown away by the way the flavors came together.