It's a knish
Ah, the humble knish. A small pastry filled with any number of leftover or cheap ingredients. If there was ever a hand held version of the casserole, the knish might be it. Now it would be reasonable to say that the knish is part of a genre of food that includes pot-stickers, perogies, pasties, and even the calzone. But each has their own twist, their own milieu and acceptable forms. You would not think of putting cheese in a pot-sticker, and likewise a calzone with ginger chicken seems wrong. So, I have attempted two traditional knishes, one with a ground beef filling and another even more traditional (owing to its poorer roots) of potato and onion.
I did not grow up eating these. My parents (and their own parents) having attained a semblance of affluence focused on the richer, more luxurious end of the the Deli menu. Where beef tongue, pastrami and lox reigned there was no room for the humble little Russian potato pie.
In fact I did not find them myself until I lived in Kansas City of all places. My neighborhood was a odd little affair of several blocks of restaraunts pushed up aganist the Kansas/Missouri state line. On the Missouri side the liquor laws were more liberal, making the state line an ideal place for businesses hoping to attract the more affluent residents of Johnson county Kansas to come out and play. At 39th St, a block from the State Line Rd there was a pizza joint called D’Bronx owned by a family that were congregants at the synagogue I worked for. The potato knish there was delightful, with a stab of spciy brown mustard (Gulden’s of course) you didn’t even notice the lack of meat.
So, in the spirit of making it myself (since Deli’s are a dying breed) I took to my cookbooks and starting working on both a potato and (since my kids love anything with meat) a ground beef knish. I served them with some nice corned beef and boiled cabbage.
Recipe after the break.
I am writing my first post since contracting the worst food-borne illness of my life. It ranks up there in the top 5 sickest I have ever been. I believe the culprit was a restaurant hamburger that I have been paying for, for over a week, but I think I may have turned the corner. As soon as I am able to reasonably think about food again I will update with my Yom Kippur brisket. In the meantime, this experience has renewed my concern with our country’s food system, particularly the handling of ground beef. Coincidentally, the New York Times published a frightening article about e. coli and ground beef , that is worth a read. Due to the fact that even horrific abdominal pain and a total inability to eat won’t stop me from consuming my beloved burgers in the future I took a hint from Gordon and ordered a meat grinder. I’ll stick to homemade from now on.
In the meantime I am mourning the loss a favorite kitchen companion, Gourmet Magazine.
As was widely reported yesterday Conde Nast has made the decision to cease publication of Gourmet Magazine after almost 70 years with its November issue. Every month my issue has taken its perch on my kitchen counter under the flower vase for browsing while I cook, and when the next one arrived I would clip the recipes that interested me for my recipe binder. Its a subscription and a ritual that won’t easily be replaced.
I am very pleased to announce that the band of heathens is expanding and we are adding an Israeli foreign correspondent. One of my most favorite people in the world and three time winner of the Bay Cities Produce trivia contest, Ms. Dafna L. She will be reporting from Tel Aviv for the next couple of months before she heads back to the US. Dafna is an accomplished cook, a stickler for quality ingredients and you are guaranteed to put a smile on her face by bringing her unusual fruit to try. One of the most amusing conversations I have ever had with her was a desert island produce fantasy involving what one crop we would choose to cultivate should we ever get stranded. This conversation went on for a freakish length of time, with everyone else present quietly sneaking out to escape our weirdness, but we came to the firm conclusion that avocado was the only reasonable choice. Dafna also is kindered spirit in that her kitchen organizational fastidiousness may actually surpass that of myself and Gordon. She almost cried tears of joy the day I gave her a label-maker. You can expect her first post in the next couple of days and I know I am really looking forward to it.
Schnitzel fresh from the oven and ready for dinner
Schnitzel is an Israeli staple. It is served so often in Israeli hotels and youth hostels that many tourists are convinced that there really isn’t any other entree in the Israeli diet. Now, the traditional Austrian dish is made with veal cutlets. While veal is part of the Israeli diet, Israelis tend to consume their veal on skewers of grilled meat. In fact most good skewer restaurants will offer not only chicken and turkey but also goose, veal and sometimes pork (called white steak so as not to use the word “pig”).
Now the common Israeli schnitzel is usually chicken and sometimes turkey (a very common source of meat in Israel- most of the schwarma is in fact turkey, flavored with lamb fat). If you go to an Israeli butcher on a Friday afternoon you can see them breaking down chickens and pounding the breast meat into a uniform thickness.
Now, you might ask yourself whether making schnitzel is worth all the work since you can go down to the grocery store and get some chicken tenders. To that I say, if you want to eat over-fried shoe leather that was made hours ago go ahead. But one taste of fresh schnitzel and you will be off the tenders for life.
My twist is that I oven fry it. I have a moderate fear of frying. Well its not so much a fear of frying but a fear of fry mess. Amiee and I share an aversion to mess. In fact we are both a bit nutty about keeping our kitchens “just so” and for me the idea of spattering oil all over the stove is a bit more than I can bear on a regular basis. Hence my oven fry scheme.
Directions after the jump
Ok, let me be honest- this isn’t really Jewish per se. But it is based on my childhood. My parents were New Yorkers, born and bred in the radius of the subway system. Upon attaining parenthood they yearned for the wide open spaces of New Jersey and shortly after my brother’s arrival they had settled into what was called a “farmette” a 14 acre hobby farm where my mother kept a few horses. In order to qualify for the property tax exemption for working farms there had to be some crops or livestock. This led to a few seasons of buying black Angus calves that were fattened over the summer and then sold (one side of beef ended up in our own deep freeze- I can still see the solid wall of butcher paper wrapped meat). Later we switched to pigs and then a few years after that we moved to Wisconsin. There my parents bought an old working farm, 50 acres complete with an old dairy barn, sheds and an orchard.
The orchard proved to be a mixed blessing. There was fruit simply falling of the trees each Fall and with it the imperative to try and save some of it for the winter months. My mother set to canning and freezing with a frenzy. I have strong memories of cranking bushels of apples through our Foley food mill to make apple butter and the blocks of canning paraffin and Ball jars in the kitchen cabinets.
Which leads me to my current project. Last night I reached into the fridge to grab one of the Bartlett pairs I had stashed there so they wouldn’t over-ripen in the recent heat wave we are (still) having. Lo and behold, they were frozen solid- all of them. I quickly realized that upon defrosting I would have pear mush and that if I was going to salvage anything from this purchase decisive action was called for. I grabbed my food mill, my copy of the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition – 2006 and went to work.
Details and photos after the break.
Ok, for anyone who followed my last post and now has a small container of chicken fat in the fridge- here is a use that will let you die happy. You may note that I am a fan of the Cook’s Illustrated cook book (see my last post). That is because they happily test 15-20 ways of cooking something before putting into the book. As an extra bonus, you get the back story of how they developed the technique which allows a tinkerer like my self to tweak it slightly (in this case replacing the vegetable oil with chicken fat).
The full details after the break. Continue reading
Dinner last night was neither Jewish, nor Israeli, but it does have it origins in the Middle East, Afghanistan specifically, so no doubt Jews have eaten it before we did last night. In fact, I hear there is at least one Jew left who has not been driven out of Afghanistan. I’m sure, if you ask nicely, Gordon can give you a complete history of Jews in Afganistan. I personally had this dish in a restaurant several years ago and really enjoyed it, so when I came across a recipe for it in Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, I decided to make it for myself. BTW- I highly recommend Reichl’s book as it is a facinating story of how a nice Jewish girl became the most powerful woman in the food world, when she was the New York Times Restaurant Critic. Now onto the meal…
Garlic and Yogurt (I couldn't afford sapphires)