Carrie Nahabedian’s Sou Boreg (Photo courtesy Carrie Nahabedian)

Recipe Corner: On the Menu: Sou Boreg (Cheese Casserole)

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WASHINGTON—  Carrie Nahabedian’s mother ushered her out the door to her flight to Washington, D.C. for the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, this was her advice to the Michelin-starred chef, “Don’t brown the sou boreg too much.”

Armed with her beloved grandmother’s original rolling stick, Nahabedian blew into the Hatsatoun prep kitchen along with the end of a storm on our opening day, ready to demonstrate her Grandma Rose Nahabedian’s recipe for sou boreg, a cheese-filled, layered noodle dish. She had prepared it once the previous evening, teaming up with Chef Michael Costa at <https://www.zaytinya.com/location/washington-dc/> Zaytinya to serve alongside roasted leg of lamb and fasoulia (braised green beans), topped with fresh herbs, chive oil, and lamb jus.

Nahabedian credits her Grandma Rose from Chicago for teaching her all about Armenian cooking and preparation. “My grandmother cooked every day,” she says. “She made her own homemade yogurt, her own bread, her own phyllo dough. I believe that our beloved moms and grandmothers are the people who learn and who teach and pass on these unique family food traditions and customs to their children.”

Nahabedian began cooking in high school, when she would go to Grandma Rose’s house each week and learn a new dish until she had cooked through her grandmother’s repertoire. She would measure her grandmother’s hand to learn the amounts of salt or olive oil used. When it came time to choosing a dish to demonstrate for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival visitors, everyone in her family and at church had an opinion: from crème kadayif (a cream-filled pastry made with crispy phyllo) to boreg (a rolled version of baklava). But the fact that Nahabedian had her grandmother’s rolling stick, which itself is almost 75 years old, cemented the decision to make sou boreg.

Chefs Carrie Nahabedian and Gayane Khachatryan the Hatsatoun kitchen at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by Jurban

Nahabedian says, “My mother Helen cooks tremendously, and my Grandma Rose, who passed away in 1991, was famous in Chicago as the queen of Armenian cooking. I learned how to make pilaf, yalanchi and other dishes from Grandma Rose, and I have clipped recipes from both these women to the back of my favorite Armenian cookbook (Armenian Cooking Today by Alice Antreassian [St. Vartan Press, 1989]). Everyone in our family cooks and entertains with great style and flourish. I don’t like shortcuts or not putting your best foot forward all the time.”

The most time-consuming part of this dish is making the noodles from scratch, but as Nahabedian attests, once you’ve had it with fresh noodles, you can’t go back to mock sou boreg, a variation using purchased dried egg noodles.

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Ingredients:

Dough:

3 large eggs

Nice pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups all-purpose flour for kneading and rolling

 

Filling:

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 pounds Muenster or Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1 pound small-curd cottage cheese

4 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

 

Preparation:

To make the dough, crack the eggs into a large mixer bowl and beat until fluffy with a whip. Add the salt and olive oil. By hand, knead in the flour. It should be sticky. Knead in more flour until it is soft and makes a smooth ball. Do this on a smooth surface for best results.

Divide the dough into six equal portions shaped into balls. Place on a sheet pan or counter; cover with a towel and let rest for at least two hours. This will make it easier to roll out later. Do not let the dough balls touch each other.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Generously butter a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof pan. Set aside.

Boil a large pot of lightly salted water on a high flame. Have a bowl of lightly iced water ready next to it.

Roll the dough with additional flour, making sure it does not tear. This is a very fragile dough. Roll into a thin round, approximately 10 inches wide.

Drop the dough round into the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds. Carefully remove the cooked dough and drop into cold water. Make sure there is not too much ice — it can tear the noodles. Remove quickly. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside. (Carrie likes to drizzle it with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.)

In a large bowl, mix the grated and cottage cheeses together with the beaten eggs. Taste for seasoning; it will vary based on the cheese. It most likely will not need any salt due to the nature of the cheese.

Divide the cheese into two bowls. Into one bowl, add the parsley, and leave the other plain.

Place one noodle sheet in the prepared pan. Brush with melted butter. Next, add the cheese-parsley mix. Add the rest of the noodle sheets and the remainder of the plain filling. Take care not to put cheese on every layer: this is not a lasagna. Dot the top of the dish with small pieces of soft butter.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is nicely golden brown, puffy and bubbly. Let it cool before cutting into squares.

Note: The dough can also be made ahead of time and rested overnight. The whole dish can be made up to the baking step, then covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated to prevent drying. Alternatively, the dish can be baked, chilled, and reheated for the next day.

(Author Kathy Phung is a foodways coordinator for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, who also manages the demonstration kitchen at the National Museum of American History. Armed with a degree in anthropology and baking and pastry arts, she has worked in various food enterprises in the D.C. area as an oompa loompa, pastry cook, and butcher.)

For this story and recipe, go to: https://festival.si.edu/blog/armenian-recipe-sou-boreg-cheese-casserole

Also see:

https://www.si.edu/object/armenian-recipe-sou-boreg-cheese-casserole%3Aposts
_1432036f94ec604fac672de2c8bab88d

For more Armenian recipes, see:

https://www.jamesbeard.org/chef/carrie-nahabedian

Chef Nahabedian opened Chicago’s Brindille in the spring of 2013 along with partner and cousin Michael Nahabedian. While her former restaurant NAHA served to highlight her Armenian roots, Brindille’s refined Parisian fare celebrates the Nahabedian cousins’ favorite spots in Paris:

Brindille

534 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL, 60654

For reservations, call: 312) 595-1616

https://brindille-chicago.com/

https://www.instagram.com/carrienaha/

Social media: Facebook: Carrie Nahabedian or NAHA Restaurant or Brindille;

Twitter: @cnaha or @naha-chgo or @brindille-chgo

For Carrie’s Armenian Shish Kebab and Rice Pilaf recipes, go to: https://www.jamesbeard.org/chef/carrie-nahabedian

For “Carrie Nahabedian, The Michelin-starred chef, 62, on post-riot rehabbing, the two types of line cooks, and the best advice she ever got,” Chicago Magazine, October 2020, go to:

https://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2020/Carrie-Nahabedian/

References:

https://www.facebook.com/events/499062227177246/?active_tab=about

https://mirrorspectator.com/2021/09/23/recipe-corner-chef-rose-nahabedians-sou-bourek/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/01/27/recipe-corner-something-about-carrie/

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-dec-08-fo-41602-story.html

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/5-female-chefs-who-continue-to-inspire-chicagos-food-scene

https://www.chicagomag.com/chicago-magazine/may-2014/chicagos-best-new-resta
urants/brindille/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-food-restaurant-coronavirus-brindille-opening-0731-20200731-flylrmmu35foxcjyz66b3xk3ga-story.html

https://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-food-brindille-restaurant-review-0123-story.html

https://www.instagram.com/brindillechicago/

https://www.facebook.com/brindillechicago/

https://www.instagram.com/carrienaha/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=60f8731b-5b
4a-4a28-9ecd-e8584706d1ab

Copyright 2022 ©Carrie Nahabedian. All rights reserved.

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