Mixing in the herbs with the dough (Serevan photo)

Recipe Corner: Serge Madikians’s Jingalov Hats (Armenian Flatbread)

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Photos courtesy Serge Madikians at  https://serevan.com/

AMENIA, NY — Serge Madikians is the chef and owner of the award-winning Serevan Restaurant in Amenia, NY, where he expresses his passion for Middle Eastern flavors filtered through the lens of fresh Hudson Valley ingredients. He is an Armenian-Iranian from Tehran, Iran who came to the U.S. in 1978 with his brother to avoid the Iranian Revolution. He completed his undergraduate degree majoring in history and philosophy. Later, he moved to New York and earned a master’s degree in public policy and economics at  The New School. Serge was also a contributing chef to The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes That Make America Great.

He graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 1998. Upon graduating, he worked in the kitchen of Jean-Georges Vongerichten during a year-long externship. Afterward, he worked at David Bouley’s Danube. Serge said of the experience, “The artistry, craftsmanship and cooking at Danube really helped me formulate a sensibility of my own.” He  then became the executive chef at a Moroccan restaurant in New York City named Chez es Saada. In the spring of 2002, he became the executive chef at a small eatery in  Bovina, NY. There he gained a reputation for innovative use of fresh, local ingredients. In 2005, he opened Serevan. The name is an adaptation of both Yerevan and Lake Sevan in Armenia.

Jingalov Hats at Serevan

“K’ndzmendzyuk, chercheruk, s’msemok, mokhratal are just a few of the over two dozen herbal plants, many of whose names are quite tough to pronounce, that the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) use in baking the famous zhengyalov hatz,” said Haykaram Nahapetyan in 2020 in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. “This delicious bread stuffed with local herbs is known as an authentic Artsakh food, although people of Syunik and some in the Tavush region also bake it. Its increasing popularity has recently been evidenced by the opening of Zhengyalov Hatz restaurants in various places of Yerevan. Twice a major national U.S. media outlet none other than the New York Times named zhengyalov hatz one of the best dishes of Los Angeles.”

“Zhengyalov Hatz, which opened in Glendale in 2020, makes huge, juicy breads filled with chopped herbs and greens, cooking them to order all day so they’re hot,” New York Times’s Jill Cowan reported. On January 1, 2020, the newspaper ran another story on zhengyal bread, calling it ‘the perfect snack.’ In Artsakh typically not just some but all restaurants serve zhengyal. You can enjoy it at Stepanakert’s market where the Artsakhtsi women cook authentic rolls in front of the customer on traditional stoves called ‘sadj.’ This organic, nutritious food is normally sold here for quite
affordable prices.”

Here’s Serge’s recipe for Jingalov Hats that he serves at Serevan. The late, great Anthony Bourdain visited Artsakh for a “Parts Unknown” episode titled “Armenia” that aired in 2018, and Azerbaijan promptly banned him. Jingalov Hats are especially popular during the Armenian Great Lent, due to its vegetarian nature.

Dough resting (Serevan photo)

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Preparing Jingalov Hats at Serevan

“Our interpretation of this famous Armenian flatbread has become the most popular item on our appetizer menu. When I prepare a new batch, my heart is filled with both joy and sorrow: joy, because of the gracious and wonderful Armenians I met who took the time to teach me more about Jingalov Hats; and, sorrow, because I know the region is in turmoil, defending itself for the right to simply exist. With the serving of each Jingalov Hats, I hope to convey the thoughtful and loving spirit of the Armenians of Stepanakert, Republic of Artsakh, and Armenia, that in my heart is home to us all, the Armenians,” says Serge.

“The ‘hats’ is stuffed with wild herbs and greens that are foraged from the nearby woods, so it convey a chorus of local flavors and tastes, and the person foraging and preparing the ‘hats’ creates the harmony and melody of its flavors. The composition of the flavors depends on the person preparing the ‘hats’ and the availability of herbs and greens. Spring and summer yield delicate, more fragrant finds, while autumn and winter give us darker, tart and more bitter bounties. With our gardens in full bloom, and the farmers markets full of summer bounties, Jingalov Hats could have plenty of herbs and greens. However, while some of the more aromatic herbs and young greens are no longer available, young salad mixes which are readily available in markets give us the lighter flavor notes that can offset the heavier, darker green flavors. A balanced ‘hats’ must have allium flavors such as leeks, chives, onion, scallions or shallots, anise notes such as fennel fronds, tarragon, dill, chervil, and earthy, darker notes, such as spinach chard, beet greens, and kale,” he adds.

 

Dough:

Makes about 10 2-3 oz balls:

3 cups all-purpose flour, extra as needed

1/2 cup labneh, Greek yogurt or plain yogurt

1 cup lukewarm water, or less if using plain yogurt

2 teaspoons fine salt/sea salt

 

Use a large enough bowl in which you could comfortably mix the dough, and in it add the flour and the salt and give it a good mix. Then with your hands, create a well in the center of the dough, in which you add the yogurt and the water. If using plain yogurt, reduce the water by 2 tablespoons. Using one hand, gently mix the yogurt and the water, and then slowly incorporate the flour. The dough will come together quickly, and it may seem dry initially; don’t worry, keep mixing the dough, and try to maintain on direction, clockwise or opposite, so the gluten has a chance to develop uniformly.

Once the flour has absorbed the liquid, take the dough out of the bowl and knead the dough for at least four minutes, or until it’s smooth in texture and no longer sticky. If the dough remains sticky sprinkle a teaspoon at a time of flour, until it’s no longer sticky. The final dough should be soft and slightly supple, but not tough or hard.

Tip: When making this recipe, make the dough first, and while it rests in a bowl covered with a towel or plastic wrap, finely chop the greens and herbs. By the time you’re done, the dough will be ready to portion.

Ingredients:

Depending on what is available (and in season), the ingredients for the herb/green filling (for about 10 ‘hats’) should include:

3 bunches flat-leaf parsley, washed, dried and large stems removed

3 bunches cilantro, washed, dried and large stems removed

3 bunches spinach, washed, dried and stems removed

3 bunches Swiss chard, washed, dried and large stems removed (optional)

3 bunches dill, washed, dried and large stems removed

3 bunches arugula, washed, dried and large stems removed

1 bunch tarragon, washed, dried, and large stems removed

1 large shallot, peeled, diced small, or 1/4 onion, diced small

1 large stalk leek, washed, dried and cut in half, sliced thinly

6 stalks green onions, washed, dried and roots trimmed, sliced thinly

3 teaspoons salt, to taste

3 teaspoons Aleppo pepper/paprika/ground black pepper

1/2 cup neutral oil or light olive oil

 

Preparation:

Keep in mind that the joy of making the ‘hats’ lies in what you have available in your garden, surrounding woods or the markets. The recipe above is only a guideline, and the measurements are approximates. A 2-3 oz. ball of dough once rolled out will turn into a 7” by 4” ‘hats’ that could comfortably enclose within itself about 2 cups of herb and green mixture. (At Serevan, they chiffonade the herbs, with a sharp knife, so the herbs and the greens do not bleed, which alters their flavor, rendering them more ‘chlorophyll-y’, a byproduct of chopping the herbs and the greens. To chiffonade the herb and green mixture, gather enough of each herb mixture which you could comfortably hold in one hand, and with the other, in a rolling motion, slice them about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thickness.)

Pick up two sides of the circle and pinch them together over the center of the filling. Continue to pinch the edges together from top to bottom so that the middle is wide and the ends form points. When you get to the end, tuck in the tip so it’s sealed but ensure that there is filling all the way to the tip.

Do not worry too much about uniformity of the cut. Add all the cut herbs to the large bowl, then add the shallots, leeks and green onions, and toss well. Put the bowl aside. Once the dough has relaxed after about 30 minutes, divide the dough into 10 2-3 oz. balls. Work with one ball at a time and keep the rest covered with a kitchen towel. On a well-floured surface roll out the dough to about a 5-inch circle about 1/8 of an inch. In the smaller bowl, add about two handfuls of the cut herb and green mixture, and sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and Aleppo pepper or paprika or black pepper. Toss well.

Add about a tablespoon of oil and mix well. Mound the seasoned herb mixture in the center of the rolled out dough and with your fingers even it out to about an inch from the edges of the rolled out dough. With both your hands, lift the right and left edges of the dough, first pull it outwards then upwards towards the center of the circle and pinch the dough closed. Repeat the motion moving upwards towards the end of the dough, lifting and pinching, lifting and pinching. Then repeat again form the center of the dough toward the bottom of the circle, lifting and pinching, lifting and pinching, until you have sealed the dough fully. With your fingers, gently pat the dough down; as you pat it down, the dough will stretch and become thinner. Gently flip the dough onto its other side and repeat gently flattening it down.

Place the ‘hats’ on preheated griddle called “saj” or “sajin” (Armenian: սաջին), or a heated pan, or in a tandoor for a couple of minutes. Press it down so that it makes good contact with the griddle or pan surface. Allow it to cook for a few minutes on one side, then flip it over to the other side. This steps will be repeated a few times until the ‘hats’ is cooked through, and the dough has darkened in various places.

Serge says he likes to dip his jingalov hats in yogurt. “At Serevan, we serve it with a dollop of hummus and a refreshing, crispy salad of young celery and radishes tossed with lemon, a dash of salt and olive oil, he says. “In Armenia, it is enjoyed with beer, wine, or tahn, the traditional yogurt drink made with yogurt, cucumber, water, salt, and fresh herbs such as parsley or mint.”

 

Creative Mediterranean fare, made from local ingredients, served in a homey farmhouse setting

Serevan Restaurant

6 Autumn Lane

Amenia, NY 12501

https://serevan.com/

Phone: (845) 373-9800

For catering inquiries:  https://serevan.com/catering/

For reservations:  hello@serevan.com

For general inquiries:  hello@serevan.com

Located in a 19th century farmhouse, this destination spot features a dining room with a welcoming hearth. Chef-owner Serge Madikians, an Armenian from Iran, draws upon his heritage to offer an ever-changing menu. Winter favorites include a hearty yogurt and barley soup, a rack of lamb served with dates, and Madikians makes weekly trips to Cape Cod in his single-engine four-seater plane to pick up fresh seafood for dishes like squid salad with frisee and radicchio. Dinner is Wednesday through Sunday.

Awards:

Best Chef in the Hudson Valley in 2008

Best Chef in the Hudson Valley in 2009

James Beard Award Semifinalist in 2011

James Beard Award Semifinalist in 2012

Connect at:

http://serevan.com

https://www.facebook.com/serevanny

https://twitter.com/serevanNY

https://www.instagram.com/serevanny/

http://serevan.com/blog/

https://serevan.com/press/

See:

“Zhengyalov Hatz – Authentic Flatbreads of Artsakh Gain Popularity and International Recognition,” at https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/01/02/zhengyalov-hatz-authentic-flatbreads-of-artsakh-gain-popularity-and-international-recognition/

Lena Tachdjian’s essay on “The Making of ‘Jingalov Hats’” at: https://armenianweekly.com/2014/03/28/jingalov-hats/

A CHEF’S WAY WITH HERBS, WITH SERGE MADIKIANS at: https://hillsdalegeneralstore.com/event/a-chefs-way-with-herbs-with-serge-madikians/

Also:

https://oldwayspt.org/recipes/jingalov-hats-armenian-stuffed-flatbread

References:

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/zoom-cooking-with-my-daughter-and-chef/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/chef-serge-madikians-serevan-restaurant/

https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/meet-the-chef-serge-madikians-of-serevan-restaurant/

https://zhengyalov-hatz.business.site/

https://www.saveur.com/story/recipes/jingalov-hats/

https://la.eater.com/2019/12/19/21003008/zhengyalov-hatz-armenian-flatbread-glendale-specialty

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020760-jingalov-hats

https://annavoloshyna.com/jingalov-hats-armenian-flatbread-stuffed-with-greens-and-feta/

https://phoenixtour.org/blog/zhingyalov-hats-armenias-favorite-snack/

https://www.lavashthebook.com/dispatches/2020/4/8/jingalov-hats

Video:  https://www.lavashthebook.com/videos

https://www.facebook.com/ARMENIANANDMIDDLEEASTERNCOOKING/posts/tan-tahn-armenian-yogurt-drinktan-also-spelled-tahn-armenian-yogurt-drink-recipe/10155726863550794/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8Bd3mHWwPA

 

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