Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Knishes Are Knice!

I’m writing this from the comfort of an Amtrak lounge car, riding the Coast Starlight from Portland to Los Angeles. It’s about a thirty-hour trip, and if you’ve ever ridden Amtrak, then you know the pleasures are many but do not include the food. I like to eat one meal in the lounge car just for the experience, but it’s too expensive to do that for every meal and I prefer some healthier snacks anyway.

So I packed a few tangerines, a bag of freshly-picked raw snap peas, some garlic cheese curds, and organic, naturally-sweetened raspberry lemonade. For something more substantial, I broke out an old recipe and made knishes.

In talking about it, I realized that not a lot of people outside of New York are familiar with knishes. I don’t know how my Southern ass found out about them – being Jewish was probably a factor – but I’m so glad I did. They’re delicious, portable, and oh-so-cheap! The recipe makes a ton of knishes, which is great because they freeze beautifully and go right from the freezer to the oven, toaster oven, or microwave. They’re also delicious at room temperature, making them ideal to take to work for lunches or to bring on long train trips.

I’m giving the recipe here for the knishes I made last night; you, however, are not married to this filling. Plain mashed potato filling is good, or you can add cheese, chicken, or any veggies. I’ve even offended the culinary sensibilities of three continents by making a sort of knish-bao hybrid, filling my knishes with teriyaki stir-fry. Knishes are a great way to use up leftovers.

Speaking of bao, I also like to prepare my knishes with that technique. Traditionally you roll up knish filling in the bread dough like a jellyroll, then cut it with the side of your hand and pinch it shut. For silly reasons, I like mine bao-style, like round stuffed buns, instead. So I’m giving you those instructions here.

And when you look and the recipe and think it’s too much oil and flour to be nutritious – remember, this makes A LOT. How many depends on the size of your knishes but I got almost three dozen out of this recipe. So don’t worry, you’re not eating it all at once!


2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup barley flour *
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder (optional)
2 eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup veg or canola oil
1 1/4 cup water

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb ground organic beef, chicken, or turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small turnip, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 cup spinach, finely chopped
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chipotle powder (optional)

Egg Wash:
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water, beaten together

* If you can’t find barley flour, just use 3 cups whole wheat and 2 cups white. But barley flour gives a very nice flavor if you can find it.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (200 C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.

For the filling, throw the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Salt it if you’re in a hurry, and bring it to a good boil. Simmer the potatoes 10-20 minutes, until cooked.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the ground meat and onion together. You don’t need to add oil; the meat will sweat its own fat out. When the meat and onion are cooked, drain in a strainer to get the excess grease out, then set aside.

The potatoes should still be cooking, so start on the dough. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and beat the wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet into the dry and stir to combine until it’s all mixed in. Knead the dough until it’s even and moist but not sticky – add a little more flour if it stays sticky, or a little more water if it’s crumbly. (This is easier than it sounds, trust me.) You should be able to roll it into a ball and your finger should leave a lasting impression in the ball when you poke it, without dough sticking to your finger.

By now your potatoes should be about done. Drain them and return them to the pot with the heat off. Mash the potatoes well, then stir in the other ingredients until evenly blended.

Tearing off fist-sized chunks of dough, roll each chunk out one at a time until it’s about ¼-inch thick. Cut circles out with a cereal bowl or something similar. Hold a circle in your hand with the palm flat, and scoop a tablespoon or two of filling into the center. Gather the edges up carefully and give a little twist – it doesn’t have to be a perfect seal at the top, but you don’t want filling leaking out the sides. A bit peeking through at the top is just fine.

Keep rolling out the scraps with more dough and making more knishes until you’ve used all the dough. If you have a little filling left over, just eat it for a snack or give it to the chickens. Once all the knishes are ready, arranged nicely on the baking sheet (or sheets; you might need two), and brush them with that egg wash.

Stick the knishes in the oven and bake them for 30 minutes. Careful when they come out – the middle is REALLY hot; I burnt my lip on a fresh knish last night because they smelled so good I couldn’t wait. Let them cool for awhile and then bag ‘em up for the fridge or eat them right away.

If you plan to freeze the knishes, only bake them for 20 minutes and then give them another 20 minutes in the oven from the freezer.

Make sure you bring a couple extra if you take them to work; everyone wants one. I like to make a game out of it and say they can only have one if they correctly pronounce the word “knish.”

1 comment:

  1. I had to google it, never heard of them before. I may have to try this recipe, I've been intending to look up a cornish pastie recipe for ages and this actually sounds quite similar.