You pronounce it like this – kotlehtah (singular), or kotlehti (plural).
The name sounds almost like a cutlet. Of course, the cutlet is something completely different. This “kotlehtah,” on the other hand, is made of ground meat.
This is a beloved Russian food.
Some people call it a ground meat patty. That almost makes it seem like a hamburger patty, which kotlehtah is not.
What you do is pick a couple of ground meats – traditionally, beef and pork at 3:1 ratio – mix in some spices of choice, an egg or two, milk-soaked day-old white bread, salt, and pepper, of course. Mix it all well without overworking it and then make oval-shaped, about an inch tall patties and pan fry them in a bit of olive or vegetable oil.
A very similar, almost identical, thing exists in Persian cuisine. I haven’t researched the origins of this dish. Some say it comes from Europe. My gut feeling is that it resembles the Middle Eastern style of preparing ground meat and, therefore, is likely to have originated there.
As always, the precise recipe varies from cook to cook.
In fact, our mom’s is totally different and her kotlehti are so delicious.
My sister and I have been trying to replicate them for years.
The recipe our mom developed uses ground chicken and turkey, no milk, breadcrumbs instead of soaked bread, a bit of plain water, and who knows what else. There is some overlap with certain Italian meatball recipes, I guess.
After years and years, my sister and I started to get some aspects of mom’s kotlehti right. I made some that were tasty a few weeks ago. The other day, my sister pretty much nailed it.
The trick with mom’s kotlehti, besides amazing taste, is the airy, fluffy, and yet juicy texture. They are not mealy at all, mind you. And they have those thin brown almost crusty spots on both sides of the patties that pack a flavor punch due to Maillard reaction, caramelization.
We grew up with these things.
Kotlehti mean love to us.
When we eat them, we can feel the love, I think. It’s amazing.
You can find recipes all over the Internet. When I achieve a repeatable recipe, I too will share it with all of you.
Meanwhile, feast your eyes on the photo above.