Giant Georgian dumplings and shrimp pasta
plus my take on the spicy marg
Where I’m Eating
Georgian House: 129 Brighton 1st St, Brooklyn, NY 11235
I’ve always found Georgian cuisine to be underrated. You might’ve heard of khachapuri, aka Georgian cheese bread (there are many kinds but the Adjaruli variety, shaped like a boat, has gained a lot of popularity on social media over the last couple years) - but in general, Georgian food has sort of failed to make it into the mainstream. I do see snippets of it around - for instance, Trader Joe’s sells “adjika” seasoning which is a Georgian hot sauce - but khinkali, one of my favorite foods, are still widely unknown.
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Khinkali are Georgia’s answer to soup dumplings and they are, hands down, some of my favorite dumplings to eat. They’re usually filled with ground beef and ground pork, onion, and a blend of spices - I’ve seen everything from cumin and blue fenugreek to more simple versions with just cracked black pepper. The version at Georgian House in Brighton Beach is super simple: no greenery to be detected, just a ton of pepperiness. Judging based on my first visit alone, I’d say Georgian House makes the best khinkali I’ve ever had: thin, stretchy dough, a rich and delicious broth, and peppery, tender meat. The last time I visited the dough was a little too thick and doughy, if you will but the filling was still A+. Either way, Georgian House is worth checking out for their insanely good chicken tobaka (a crispy butterflied chicken dish served with adjika sauce), Adjaruli khachapuri and likely many more menu items I’ve yet to try.
What I’m Cooking
Shrimp & ‘Nduja Pasta
I’m a fan of eating shrimp in every format but to me, shrimp pasta is the pinnacle of shrimp perfection. It really doesn’t get any better than glossy, buttery, garlicky noods topped with sweet, succulent, crisp shrimp (“crisp” might be an odd adjective but “crunchy” didn’t feel quite right either…I’m trying to describe that snappy feeling when you bite into a firm shrimp because TBH I like my shrimp well done). I have a pretty awesome shrimp scampi recipe that always hits the spot but I decided to up the ante a bit with a shrimp & ‘nduja pasta. ‘Nduja is a spicy fermented pork spread with Calabrian chili originating from…you guessed it…Calabria. It’s one of my trigger ingredients meaning if I see it listed as an ingredient on a menu, no matter the dish, I will be ordering it (other trigger ingredients include bottarga, anchovies, mortadella). This shrimp pasta is everything you love about a scampi (garlic, lemon, butter) with the addition of a spicy funk that makes it truly irresistible.
Shrimp & ‘Nduja Pasta
WHAT YOU NEED
1.5 lb shrimp
1 box dried pasta (i like spaghetti)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or as needed
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 oz ‘nduja
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp cold butter
Pasta water as necessary
Salt to taste
WHAT YOU DO
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet over medium heat (enough to coat the bottom). Add the shrimp and sear on both sides for about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to directions. Meanwhile, add another tablespoon or so of olive oil to the skillet along with the sliced garlic, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add ‘nduja, cook for a couple minutes and then add a cup of pasta water. At this point a meaty sauce should be forming.
Add cooked pasta to the skillet along with lemon juice, parsley and cold butter. Toss until all the pasta is coated. If the sauce is feeling too thick, add more pasta water. Add the shrimp back to the skillet, toss some more, serve.
What I’m Drinking
I’ve never been a cocktail girl.
Like, I’d never text my friends and say, “hey, let’s go grab a cocktail!” It’s always more like…”hey, let’s go get some wine!” or “hey, I’m feeling anxious and stressed, let’s go eat some noodles!” But as far as “getting a cocktail” - well, that mood rarely strikes. However, I’m on a quest to change that. As I get older (literally turning 30 next week and don’t wanna talk about it) I find myself choosing to drink 1-2 cocktails* over endless glasses of wine. It just hits different.
Every wine drinker starts their journey with something sweet resembling grape juice (Moscato, anyone?) and then moves on to the biggest and boldest Cabernet’s they can, thinking this jump from white to red signifies complete and total wine evolution/maturity (when in reality the maturity lies in the subtlety and complexity in between). I believe the cocktail drinker follows a similar evolution: start with the sweet or basic - the drinks that don’t really taste like alcohol, if you will - move on to big/bold, land somewhere in the middle. I’m still in my very nascent/basic cocktail-drinking stage and while I can appreciate more mature cocktails, there is one drink that is and probably always will be my go-to: you know her, we all love her, and we don’t care that she’s a little bit basic: the skinny spicy marg (“skinny” simply because I don’t like things too sweet/am convinced sugar causes hangovers). ANYWHO - I decided to give the classic spicy margarita a little Southeast Asian flare with the addition of bird's eye chili, Thai basil and lemongrass. A word to the wise: don’t chop bird’s eye chili and then touch your eye.
*okay fine it’s almost more like 3-4 cocktails - I can’t lie to you guys.
Bird’s Eye Chili Marg
WHAT YOU NEED
1 bird’s eye chili, chopped (+ 1 for garnish)
3 thai basil leaves, torn (+ more for garnish)
1 tbsp chopped lemongrass (optional)
2 oz blanco tequila
½ oz agave
Juice of half a lime
Wedge of lime + Tajin to line the rim (optional)
WHAT YOU DO
Line the rim of your drinking vessel: add about ¼ cup Tajin to a small bowl or plate. Run a wedge of lime (with a notch sliced into the center) along the lip of your glass, then twist the glass in the Tajin bowl until the Tajin adheres to the sticky lime juice.
Add chili, basil leaves and lemongrass to a shaker. Muddle, then add tequila, agave, lime juice and several ice cubes. Shake well and serve in Tajin-rimmed glass. Garnish with more Thai basil and chili if you’d like.