There are few things that I love more than things stuffed into dough. Pierogies of course but also dim sum delicacies, ravioli, blini, empanadas, crepes, tamales, calzone, samosas. I could go on for days. Once, I told a friend that I had a great idea for a cookbook – Dumplings of the World! I passionately explained, bright eyed and gesturing wildly, that every culture had a dumpling of some sort, a delicious filling or tidbit encased in a moist dough and baked, boiled or fried to perfection. Dumplings are universally wonderful and feed the world! He smiled, bemused, then turned around and pulled this off the shelf. Dammit. I still think it’s a great idea; so what if someone beat me to it?
Recently, I was flipping through Michael Ruhlman’s ebook Schmaltz (* see note below), his ode to that Jewish liquid gold, chicken fat. Already smitten with high quality pork lard, I found the idea of cooking with schmaltz rather appealing. As I flipped the pages, visions of matzo balls, chopped liver and kreplach danced through my head. I’ve always had an affinity for Jewish deli food; this book reached deep into my soul and gave it a good squeeze. I immediately made the chopped liver and squealed with delight. Though I did make one exception, one that was recommended. Having no chicken fat on hand, I used what I did have: duck fat. It was fabulous. No surprise.
Much later, I saw it. That recipe. The page with the potato knish recipe. How had I missed this? That’s the risk of e-books – you zip this way, then that way, then hit some link that takes you over here or there. Once I spied it, that knish recipe stopped me in my tracks. If you took a peek at my mental list of favorite things, near if not at the top is probably a carbohydrate wrapped in a carbohydrate. Hey, I never said I was an Akins disciple. Far from it. I’m the poster girl for carbo-loading in daily life. You don’t get to look this good by eating just kale, let me tell you.
I’d made potato knishes eons ago, when a newspaper article caught my fancy, back in my pre-professional days when I would take on big projects with little idea of what I was really doing. It was time to revisit and I’d been toying with the idea since last spring when I inhaled one of the best things in the world – The Volcano from NYC’s Momofuku MilkBar. That beauty is essentially a knish with a potato au gratin center and it rocked my world. Probably the best thing I ate last year, maybe the last decade. Top 5 for sure.
Potato knishes, though delicious, had been done to death. A new idea proved challenging as nothing was striking my fancy– no cheese or ground meat centers, no kasha or spinach mixture. I googled, I thumbed through cookbooks, I asked around. Nothing. And then inspiration struck. There’s nothing traditional about it but it is seasonal and does indeed harken to that Jewish deli spirit. I had some extra corned beef in the fridge from an earlier meal and was getting ready to whip up a batch of sauerkraut for my Easter pierogies. So … what about a Reuben knish? Wacky? Ah, perhaps but certainly delicious. A self contained sandwich! Basically a big ‘ol dumpling. And we’re back to square one. Feeding the world with dumplings.
How you go about this is completely up to you but I include recipes for the corned beef (starting with a corned brisket but if you’re up for it, by all means, corn your own), sauerkraut and a lovely homemade thousand island dressing. The dressing is easy and I figure if you’re going to go to the trouble of making these, stirring a few ingredients together in a bowl is something you should do anyway rather than use that bottled crap. Chances are good you have all the ingredients in your house anyway. Do the right thing.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: OH BUBBE! How great are these?!? It’s a classic deli sandwich, wrapped in a flaky pastry. For the love of all that is Jewish and Irish, make these. Maybe they’re kind of Jew-rish? Whatever, they’re delicious.
Update 4/9/13: So these made a round-up of knish recipes on Huffington Post. If you found me through that link, welcome and thank you very much. If you like knishes, check out their list. I’m thinking pimento cheese knishes sound rather delightful.
*Update 4/30/13: For the time being, Schmaltz, is unavailable as an e-book as the author is working to release it as a hardcover edition in August 2013. At that time, the e-book version will be re-released from the usual sources so sit tight. And make these in the meantime. Read more here.
REUBEN KNISHES – based on a recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Schmaltz
Makes 9 knishes
For the dough:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup schmaltz, chilled (or vegetable oil) (or 4 ¼ oz if that’s easier)
½ cup water
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
for the filling:
1 pound corned beef, shredded or thinly sliced (see recipe below)
3 cups sauerkraut (see recipe below)
¾ pound thinly sliced swiss cheese
thousand island dressing (about ¾ cup – see recipe below)
egg wash – 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
- For the dough: In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, chilled schmaltz and baking powder on medium speed until the fat is uniformly blended throughout the mixture.
- Stop and switch to the dough hook, then add the water, egg, salt and pepper and mix for another 1-2 minutes until the dough comes together.
- Shape the dough into a rectangle about 2” thick, tightly wrap and chill for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
- To fill/shape: preheat the oven to 400°F and line a sheet pan with parchment or a silpat mat.
- Cut the chilled dough into 3 pieces, keep the extra dough refrigerated while you work.
- Roll out one piece of dough as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface to a 8”w x 14” rectangle. Try to keep the edges as squared up as possible.
- Trim up any uneven edges with a paring knife or a pastry wheel to create a nice, uniform rectangle. Reserve the scraps as they can be rerolled.
- Down the center of the dough, about 1” from either short side, make 3 piles of ingredients, leaving at least 1” in between. 1) cheese slice, quartered, 2) about ¼ cup sauerkraut, 3) about 4-5 slices corned beef, 4) 1 Tablespoon thousand island dressing, 5) cheese slice, quartered.
- Bring one long slide of dough, up and over, nice and snuggly over the fillings.
- Bring the opposite side of the dough up and over the fillings, nice and snuggly, trying to reach the opposite side (rather than leaving a seam on the top.)
- With a sort of gentle karate chop motion, press down the dough between the piles to separate and along the edges to gently seal.
- With a knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough between the knish fillings.
- With your hands in a gentle, rounded cupping motion, compact the fillings into a neat round, pressing down on the outside seams to seal.
- Grab the edge pieces and pull around to the back, gently pushing and pinching to seal. Getting this seal is important – if you don’t seal well, there’s a good chance the cheese will leak out during baking – see my photos. (that’s what it looks like when you lose your cheese.)
- Turn back over, place seam side down on the work surface and again with a gentle cupping motion, turn the knish to shape.
- Place knishes, seam sides down, on a parchment lined sheet pan and continue with the remaining pieces of dough and fillings.
- Bake: Brush the top and sides with the egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve immediately or reheat in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes until heated through. For longer storage, tightly wrap and keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze up to 3 weeks.
If your corned beef comes with a little spice packet, feel free to use that instead of the spices listed below. Most corned beef you’ll find is around 3-4 pounds so you’ll have extra if you’re making it just for this recipe. Deli sliced corned beef will work too but I have to tell you, it won’t be as delicious.
3 pounds corned beef, preferably Chicago’s Vienna Beef
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 fat carrot, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¾ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
4 whole allspice berries
- Place corned beef and the spice packet in a large (6-8 quart) pot along with onion and carrots. Cover with cold water by 1”.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the corned beef is fork tender.
- Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let cool.
- Cut into thin slices against the grain or shred into smaller pieces.
1 small onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sauerkraut, drained and finely chopped
1 750-ml bottle dry white wine
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
- In a saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter over medium to medium-high heat until golden brown.
- Add the wine, kraut and caraway seeds and simmer until tender and mostly dry, stirring often, about 60 minutes.
- Drain any excess liquid from the kraut, or turn up to high and boil any liquid off while watching carefully. Let cool completely before filling the knishes.
THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING:
Makes ¾ cup
½ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon finely minced white onion or shallot
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
good pinch of ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients and refrigerate several hours or up to 1 week.