Ah, back to yet another Romanian dish. I really am determined to post more Romanian dishes... all in it's own time though:). This dish was a favorite when growing up. My mom always made this for us, mostly when she had gizzards on hand. Yes, gizzards....
Traditionally ciulama is made using gizzards, though chicken hearts can also be added. But the flavor and texture the gizzards add to the gravy... well, it's just really delicious! Maybe it's delicious to me because I grew up with it. I love the slight chew and meatiness of the gizzards. In any case, the ciulama doesn't necessarily have to be made with meat. It can just as easily be made with mushrooms only.... though I would definitely use chicken stock(to make the gravy) for maximum flavor. You can also combine meat and mushrooms... as I have done in this post.
But you know, everyone has their own version of ciulama. Nowadays, the gizzards are often substituted with dark chicken meat. So I decided to make the ciulama using diced chicken thigh meat... just because I most always have chicken in the freezer. Of course, if you are shooting for a more traditional and country-style ciulama, then you can always substitute the chicken thigh meat with gizzards... just cook the gizzards until tender.
Ciulama, really, is a basic gravy-like dish... normally served over soft polenta (mamaliga). The gravy can be cooked in various ways, but it's usually made using chicken stock and a bit of sour cream. Though sometimes milk is added instead of sour cream, or even a combination of milk and sour cream can be used. But the result often tastes like the 'cream of chicken' or 'cream of mushroom' we know here in the states... only better:). I don't know what it is, but the combination of the gravy over soft polenta is pure comfort food for me. It's quite simple to make and budget-friendly... especially if you make the ciulama with only mushrooms. Love, love this dish. Hope you enjoy...
Note: This version of "ciulama" can be made with just mushrooms.... just omit the chicken and add a bit more mushrooms, then skip step 1 and 2 of the directions.
A side note: I made this dish more "bountiful"... with plenty of meat and mushrooms. You can thin out the gravy and "stretch" the dish even more (basically make more gravy to the amount of meat and mushrooms) by simply adding more stock or a combination of stock/milk to the dish and thickening the mixture with a bit of flour/water slurry.
Tip: If you don't have any sour cream on hand, you can add some milk, or even cream instead... I've made ciulama using sour cream, heavy cream, or milk. ... they all work. Cream, somehow makes it super delicious:)
You will need:
1 onion, cut in quarters
1 carrot, cut in chunks
1 small parsnip, cut in chunks(if you don't have, you can omit)
1 celery stick, cut in chunks
4 cups water
4 TBS butter, divided
1 lb white mushrooms, sliced
3-4 TBS flour
3 cups(+/-) chicken stock
3 TBS sour cream
salt and pepper
chopped parsley (or dill)
*Making polenta using a regular pot on the stovetop can be found... HERE. Using a pressure cooker can be found... HERE.
1. In a medium stock pot, add chicken and vegetables... along with 4 cups of water. Season water with about 2 tsps kosher salt.
2. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, add 2 TBS of butter to a hot skillet and allow butter to melt. To melted butter, add sliced mushrooms, and cook on med/high until mushrooms are cooked and golden....season with a bit of salt. Remove and set aside.
4. When stock is cooked, remove vegetables. Strain the stock, while leaving behind the chicken pieces. Set the chicken aside, next to to the cooked mushrooms. Set the stock aside as well, for later.
5. Clean skillet and heat the remaining 2 TBS( you can add 1 or 2 extra TBS of butter) on med/low heat. Add the flour and cook stirring until it is fully incorporated. Remove the skillet away from the heat and slowly add 2 1/2-3 cups of the reserved stock.... whisking until mixture is free of lumps.
6. Place the skillet back on the stove, and mix in 3 TBS of sour cream. Add the reserved chicken, and cooked mushrooms. Stir to combine.
7. Continue to cook the ciulama on low heat for an additional 15-20 minutes... or until mixture is thickened. Check seasoning.
I sometimes like to cover the skillet/pot while the ciulama is cooking, lifting the lid halfway and checking the consistency of the sauce.... will remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time. And sometimes I don't cover it at all:)
1. If you notice the sauce is too thick, add a bit more stock as it's cooking in step 7 .
2. If you want to make extra gravy, or you want to use all of the reserved stock, make a slurry of 1-2 TBS of flour and some water/extra stock/or milk... stir some of the slurry in the hot ciulama. Cook until thickened.