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.