Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Russian Cooking" - Pelmeni (Pasta Pouches with Filling) for a decidedly un-St. Patrick's Day, St. Patrick's Day

Date I made this recipe:  March 19, 2015

Russian Cooking by Vladimir Usov; Translated by Irina Avdeyeva
Published by:  Planeta Publishers
© 1996
Purchased at Eat My Words bookstore, Northeast Minneapolis ("Nordeast")
Recipe: Pelmeni (Pasta Pouches with Filling) with Meat Filling – p. 154-156

So.  Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day, a day I would normally "celebrate" – in a cookbook way - by making something Irish.  This year though, I decided to go rogue and make something completely different because:
1)     I'm not Irish.  Not one tiny drop.
2)     My collection contains only two Irish cookbooks and I've used them.
3)     My best friend, Carol a/k/a "Tall" died three years ago on St. Patrick's Day and that changed everything.

So I decided to honor her memory by making something from a Russian cookbook because:
1)     Although she traveled the world, she especially loved Russia and visited there twice before she died.
2)     In fact, shortly after her last trip, a church near her house changed hands and is now a Russian museum.  Coincidence?  I think not! (By the way, I still have trouble imagining a Russian museum in a very Mexican-looking building but real estate is real estate so....)
3)     The night before I flew to NJ to attend an aunt's funeral, I got together with two former Calhoun-Isles Community Band band members at a fabulous St. Paul Russian restaurant, Moscow on the Hill.  Carol was a founding member of my community band and she loved that restaurant.  'Nuff said.
4)     Speaking of band, I bought this book last year at this fun bookstore – Eat My Words – while attending a book signing.  The book – Ride Minnesota – was written by another former band mate, Cynthia Sowden.  Cynthia's book is a (travel) guide for 23 great motorcycle rides across Minnesota.  If you like "bikes" (as in motorized ones), you should buy it.  Anyway, Cindy's daughter, Beth, was at the signing.  Beth lived previously in Russia.  Years back, Carol and Beth spent some time chatting about Russia.  Small world, right?
5)     Per Beth, this cookbook is very representative of "real" Russian food. So I bought it.  And after sharing a huge bowl of today's featured recipe, Pelmeni, with my friends at Moscow on the Hill, I decided that this was going to be my St. Patrick's Day dish.
6)     Except as these things go, I made this dish on a Thursday instead of St. Patrick's Day which was on Tuesday.  Oh well.

So that's the long and the short of how I came to make my non-St. Patrick's Day meal. 

As to the cookbook, most of the recipes were relatively easy but a few posed challenges mostly because of ingredients, for example, a soup with nettles (Shchi with Nettles – P. 40); Rassolnik with Poultry Offal – so NOT going there – as well as several dishes for goose.  I don't really like goose plus where would I find it at this time of year?  A few of the dishes also called for pork fat and while I supposed I could have rendered a couple of slices of bacon, that was too much work.

Other recipes though, appealed such as salads, some beef and pork dishes (without the pork fat) and the pastries.  There's a Russian Orthodox Church at the end of my block that hosts two bake sales per year and honestly, I about bought out the place the last time I went.

But.  I had my heart set on the pelmeni and there it was.  Except, of course, that there was no way I could duplicate at home what I ate at the restaurant.  None.  At one point, when Andy and I were trying to seal up these little pouches, I jokingly threatened to bring everything over to Moscow on the Hill so they could do it for me!  I'm sure they would have been thrilled.

None of the recipes gave a serving size and had I realized how many this made, I would have halved the recipe as we still have a bit leftover.  In fact, this book seems very Russian – no narratives, no helpful hints, just straight-up recipes, ingredients and cooking times.  Beth wasn't kidding when she said it was very authentic!

And because the recipes were light on the tutorial, it took us a while to figure out just how big and how thin the dough should be for these dumplings. And even then, we ended up with some that were a bit doughy that might have been better served by boiling them longer...or not.  Hard to say.  So be en garde for inconsistent dough thickness.

As to the filling, I froze the leftover filling as the yield on that was also large.  I liked the filling but wished it had just one more ingredient for balance. I'm not sure what but honestly, I kept thinking "parsley!"  Maybe that's where the St. Patrick's Day green could have come in?  I also probably got a bit carried away "mincing" the meat mixture in the Cuisinart as it ended up to be more paste than minced and that might have also thrown the filling-to-dough ratio off.  In the end, I ate more filling than the dough but honestly, I do the same to ravioli as well.  And cupcakes.  I love the frosting, love any filling that's included but not so much the cake itself.  I am sure I am not alone in these preferences.

Now ever since I started this blog, I decided that in order to even attempt to make my way through my cookbook collection, I would need to limit my recipe selection to one per book.  And I make each recipe faithfully according to the directions.  Andy's only issue with my "one and done" method for cooking for the blog i.e. making the recipe once only, exactly as directed, is that I don't allow for tweaking which may (or not) vastly improve the outcome the next time around.  But as he knows, if I were to rework all the recipes I've tried out for this blog, I would never make my way through my collection even though I am already ridiculously behind, having cooked from only 527 of my 2,060 book collection.  But when the goal is to keep cooking and keep collecting, well then it hardly matters that I've only sampled a quarter of my cookbooks.

Prep time for this dish is estimated at 1 hour and 30 minutes and I don't think it took that long but you will need to reserve enough time to make the dough, roll it out and fill it.  The filling itself took minutes!

Pelmeni (Pasta Pouches with Filling) – serving size not listed
For the dough
2 cups flour
½ cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 egg
Salt to taste

For the filling (meat)
10 oz beef
10 oz pork
 1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
2/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream (optional) for garnish

Ann's Note:  it's unclear whether the beef and pork should be pre-ground or not.  I bought it (raw) already ground. 

Optional fillings (untried)
Pelmeni with Fish
1 lb filleted fish
1 onion
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Pelmeni with Mushrooms (untried)
5-6 dried mushrooms
½ cup rice (cooked)
1 onion
2 tbsp butter
Salt to taste

To make the dough:
Heap the flour on the table, make a hollow on top, pour in the egg, water and milk, work into a dough. At the end, add the vegetable oil.

Roll the dough out thinly, cut out small rounds (about 2 inches in diameter), or divide the dough in three even portions and roll each into a plait about an inch thick, then cut crosswise to the size of a walnut and roll out the rounds from individual pieces.

To make the Meat filling:
Mince the beef, pork, onion and garlic in the food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the milk and mix well.

Place a teaspoonful minced meat on each round, fold over and pinch the ends together to make a half-moon.  Set the prepared pelmeni aside on a floured board as you go along.  Pelmeni can be stored frozen in the fridge, if not used immediately.

Lower the pelmeni one by one in salted boiling water; serve as soon as they surface, with butter or sour cream.

To make the other fillings:
Fish - Wash and mince pike, cod or other fish fillets in the food processor together with the onion, twice; add salt and pepper, spoon over the butter and mix well.

Mushrooms – Soak the mushrooms beforehand; cook, chop finely and fry lightly.  Add salt, the previously sautéed chopped onion and cooked rice.  Mix.

No comments: