When I first meet someone new and they find out I live in Portland, their next question is usually: “Ohhh is it just like the show Portlandia?” And my response is always: “Why, yes. Yes it is.” That comes off as sarcastic in writing, but I swear to you it’s not. It is genuine. Real life in Portland often feels as if we’re living in the show. Like Marrow Man and I are Carrie and Fred just beep bopping our way through the tattoo shop-lined streets, bustling food cart pods, and the innumerable farmers markets that populate this quirky little beard-clad, beer-obsessed city.
We giggle as people skate board (and unicycle??) past our house on their daily commute to work. We’re intrigued by the group of vegan, heavy-metal loving bros at the gym, wearing shirts that say things like “I like death in my metal, not in my meals.” And we admire our neighbors who set up kiddie pools in their front yard to catch excess rainfall for their plants. (We simultaneously have to fight the urge to play in said kiddie pools during the hot summer months! Shhh)
There’s no doubt about it. Portland is weird in all the right ways.
Another Portlandia experience that’s been front of mind lately has been the front-yard chickens that have been roaming our neighborhood lately. We’ve been having some blissfully beautiful fake spring weather, which seems to have enticed our neighbors’ chickens to flee the coop and explore the hood under bright blue skies. We laugh as we spot them roaming up and down our driveway from the kitchen. Or through the front of the yard, taunting Bourré from the window. Sometimes, they’ll casually strut across the street in a single file line, giving us a real-life snapshot into those old “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. (Answer: To get to the other side because the neighbor across the street has a bigger yard.)
The front-yard chickens were also the bearers of the fresh eggs that topped my new favorite hangover food, which incidentally, came in quite handy today following the Mardi Gras shenanigans of last night: Acharuli Khachapuri. (Our neighbors also delivered the eggs in a container marked “Colin and Friends'”…a classic Portlandia reference!) If you’re wondering what Khachapuri is, you’re probably not alone.
I only had it for the first time a few months ago at Kachka, but I fell madly in love.
It’s a Georgian cheese and bread dish that tastes a little bit like a pizza without the tomatoes. It’s traditionally served in boat form by rolling together two sides of a dough circle and then pinching the ends together. This leaves the center open and hollow, a space that is ripe for filling with things like gooey melted cheese. Traditionally, khachapuri are filled with a smoky sulguni cheese. But since that is fairly difficult to come across in the US, I made mine with Muenster.
It’s baked until its crust begins to turn golden and the cheese is melted, at which point it’s topped with an egg. Once the egg is slightly set, but not all the way cooked through, it’s topped with a small pat of butter, which melts in its well. The outer crust is torn off and dipped into all of that butter, cheese, and runny egg yolk that sits at its center.
It is quite possibly one of my favorite things I’ve ever put into my mouth.
Needless to say, I’m still loving life in Portlandia. And I’m so thankful that the front yard chickens, who looked on at me through the kitchen window as I photographed, gave us such beautiful eggs with which to top our khachapuri. I like to think their interest in my little photo shoot was their way of saying they were equally thankful that we used the fruits of their labor for something so special.
- 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
- ¾ teaspoon of sugar
- 2 cups of warm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus a few teaspoons
- 2 cups of bread flour
- 2 cups of all purpose flour, plus ½ to 1 cup extra for kneading/finishing dough
- 4 teaspoons of kosher salt or 1 teaspoon of regular salt
- 16 ounces of Muenster cheese, shredded
- 6 eggs
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided into 6 even pieces
- Salt and parsley, for finishing and garnish (optional)
- In a small bowl, gently combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Let it stand for about 10 minutes, or until you notice the yeast begin to foam. If you notice your yeast isn’t foaming, it probably means it’s too old—you should replace it with fresh yeast before proceeding.
- In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, bread flour, 2 cups of the all purpose flour, and salt. Add the foamy yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix gently with your hands to combine. Once it’s well combined, transfer the dough to a floured surface and begin to knead the dough. Keep adding the extra flour a little bit at a time as you knead until it is no longer extremely sticky. Continue kneading the dough for 3 more minutes, or until you notice it become smooth on the outside.
- Rinse out the large bowl and rub down with butter or oil. Transfer the dough ball to the bowl and cover with a damp paper towel or cloth. Leave in a warm place (at least 75 degrees F) for 45 minutes, or until you notice it’s nearly doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen and you’re ready to assemble the boats, turn the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a large cast iron skillet or a pizza stone in the oven while it heats up.
- Punch down the dough bowl and divide into 6 equal parts. On a well-floured work surface, roll each dough part into 6-inch circles that are approximately ⅛-inch thick. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of cheese in each of the circles, leaving a ½-inch border without any cheese on it. Then, begin to roll the dough inwards on one side of the circle and do the same on the other side of the circle, leaving about 2 inches in between the two scrolls. Pinch the ends together to form a boat-like vessel out of the dough (see photo above), making sure to seal them together tightly with your fingers. Repeat on the remaining 5 dough circles. Top the boats with the remaining cheese. Make sure the cheese is not overflowing from the boat. You need to leave room to add the egg later, so if that means not using all of your cheese, just set it aside for later use (or snacking.)
- Transfer the assembled boats to your pre-heated cast iron skillet or pizza stone and bake for about 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Once golden brown, remove from the oven, crack 1 egg into each boat, and return to the oven to cook until egg white is slightly set, about 5 minutes but keep a close eye as you don’t want to over-cook the egg. Remove from the oven, top with a sliver of butter, and garnish with a sprinkle of finishing salt and parsley (optional). Serve hot, using the crust to dip into the well.