Etty Russo’s Lamb Mina From Izmir

photo taken by avlxyz, on February 4, 2013, CC licensing

Recipe taken from 

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations
by Jayne Cohen (Wiley 2008)

Yield: About 6 servings

Borekas, bulemas, and boyos, empanadas, tapadas, and ojaldres--Turkish Jews are extraordinarily fond of their savory pies and turnovers. For Passover, they make special versions using matzoh, called minas. Usually moistened matzoh squares form the top and bottom crust of a pie; in more elaborate minas, the matzoh may be layered through one or more fillings, creating a lasagne-like casserole.
But in Izmir, southwestern Turkey, Etty Russo's lamb and chicken minas are a delectable jumble of matzoh, meat, and eggs, more akin to matzoh brie. Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, sheep, poultry, vegetables, and fruit grow intensely flavorful, and the Russo minas rely on no more seasoning than garlic, pepper, and a generous dust of coarse salt. But you can brighten up more pallid foodstuffs with a few additional flavorings, if needed.
At Russo seders, this homey, easy-to-prepare lamb mina shares equal billing with the elegant roast lamb Etty serves with potatoes, fresh green beans, and peas. It makes a tasty Passover weekday supper as well.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for greasing the pan
  • About 2 1/2 pounds shoulder lamb chops, well trimmed of fat and gristle
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 whole plain or egg matzohs
  • About 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or lightly salted water
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling
  • Optional garnish: chopped parsley or dill leaves

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Choose a heavy, deep, lidded skillet large enough to hold all the lamb snugly in a single layer. Film it with the olive oil and set it over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the lamb, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, and saute until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer the lamb as it is done to a platter and season well with salt and pepper.
Discard all the fat in the pan, then pour in 2 cups water to deglaze, scraping up all the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to a simmer and return all the lamb to the pan. Cover tightly and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lamb is tender but still juicy. Let the meat cool in the liquid, then cut it into bite-size pieces, discarding any fat and bones. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Spread the matzohs out on a platter or rimmed baking sheet. Moisten them with the broth or salted water and let them drink in the liquid for about 5 minutes. Break the matzohs into pieces about the size of a quarter and drain either in a colander, extracting the liquid with your hands or the back of a wooden spoon, or the traditional Turkish way, by pressing the matzoh dry between clean kitchen towels.
Meanwhile, in another large bowl, beat the eggs until well blended. Add the drained matzohs to the eggs. Mix in the lamb and garlic and season well with salt and pepper.
Grease the bottom and sides of a large, shallow baking pan (13 by 9-inch, 12-inch oval, or similar size). Spread the lamb-matzoh batter evenly in the pan. Measure out about 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid and pour it through a strainer over the batter. The lamb pieces should be covered or they may dry out, so if needed, push them down into the batter and add more of the cooking liquid. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the top is firm and golden brown.
Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Sprinkle well with coarse salt and pepper, garnish with the herbs, if desired, and serve.
Cook's Note: This is very good prepared a day ahead and reheated, uncovered, until hot and crusty.
Simple and flavorful as is, you can elaborate on the basic recipe, adding fresh herbs (scallions, chives, mint, tarragon, cilantro, or rosemary) or spices like smoked paprika to the batter.
Chicken Mina variation: Place about 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat in a heavy saucepan, add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cold water to cover by about an inch. Simmer slowly (don't allow the water to boil), until the chicken is barely cooked through: it should be quite juicy. Follow the lamb mina directions, substituting trimmed, bite-size pieces of the chicken for the lamb.
Can you use poached chicken left over from soup? The secret to this homey mina is very juicy, gently cooked meat. Since all of the flavor from your chicken will have gone into your soup, you'd really be left with nothing very tasty for the mina.

Sephardic or Askhenazi