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"The first thing Mel ever cooked for me was a beef börek, and I instantly fell for it—the flavor and texture were seductive, a little mysterious, but not totally unfamiliar. It was like eating something from a past life. Böreks are often described as savory pies, but I think that's slightly misleading because integral to the preparation and the amazing taste is the layering of the filling (whether meat or vegetable), the egg glaze, and the yufka dough.
Yufka dough is similar to lavash, or a little like a flour tortilla with some flakiness on the surface; in Turkey, you buy it in the market in big sheets, but it's also sold in packages in specialty stores, Middle Eastern markets, or online, and I recommend you seek it out for these recipes. (The same is true for the black cumin seeds.) Traditionally, the dough is brushed liberally with a mixture of eggs, oil, and milk, but a trick I learned from one of Mel's aunts is to substitute yogurt for the milk, and I gotta tell you, I'm never going back. The glaze transforms into a yogurt-y custard when cooked, infusing the filling with tanginess, and coating all of the nooks and crannies of the yufka. Trust me—pie has nothing on this." –Scott Conant
For another of the Conant family's favorite recipes, check out Scott's Cast-Iron Skillet Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes and Chimichurri.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the ground beef, season with additional salt and pepper, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the yogurt and the sunflower oil.
Start building layers in the baking dish: Place one sheet of yufka dough in the bottom of the dish, then generously brush some egg-yogurt mixture on the dough, being sure to thoroughly coat the bottom. (The yufka will drape over the sides of the pan; it's okay if it tears a little bit.) Add another sheet of yufka, brush with a little more of the egg-yogurt mixture, then add half of the cooked meat.
Wrap the sides of the top layer of yufka on top of the meat, then generously brush the top with more egg-yogurt mixture (you can pour some of the mixture over the top to make sure the yufka is very well coated). Add the rest of the meat and fold the remaining sides of yufka over the top. (If you want a more uniform crust on the top, you can add one more sheet of yufka on top, trimming it so it fits perfectly in the baking dish.) Pour the rest of the egg-yogurt mixture over the yufka, brush so that the surface is completely coated, then sprinkle with the cumin seeds.
Bake the börek in the preheated oven until it's golden brown on top and sizzling, about 45 minutes. Let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
Excerpted from Peace, Love, and Pasta by Scott Conant. Copyright © 2021 by Scott Conant. Used with permission by Abrams. All rights reserved.