Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kreplach: Not just for Klingons

Though I have loved matzo ball soup since forever (and ever), I had never had kreplach, the Other Eastern European Jewish Dumpling, until quite recently. Now, although I wouldn't consider kreplach categorically better than matzo balls, I may or may not know others, unbiased by childhood memories of copper cauldrons brimming with matzo ball soup, who strongly prefer kreplach in their soup if given the choice. If you, like me, didn't grow up with kreplach and were assuming all this time that they were Klingon food, allow me to illuminate you: kreplach are like Chinese ravioli-dumplings, but they taste unequivocally Ashkenzic Jew-y due to the chicken, parsley and onion-y flavorings present. I like them in soup, but you can also eat them on their own after being fried or boiled (the kreplach, not you). And kreplach can actually be filled with all kinds of things (beef, cheese, etc) and are kind of fun to make; pinching their sides together reminds me of making hamantaschen, except for that I'm not tempted to lick my fingers when the filling gets on them because it's raw chicken parts. Delicious.

Ok, but in all seriousness, once cooked, kreplach are very tasty little dumplings. I screwed around with a couple of recipes, South Americanizing them a bit-- using the white and green parts of scallions instead of shallots and chives, and generally being amused that the original recipe authors think I have a food processor at my disposal. I also experimented with passing the dough through a pasta roller (yes, I have a pasta roller but no food processor, sue me), which turns out a nicer, more uniform dough than using a rolling pin empty cachaça bottle but is kind of a pain because the dough is wetter than your typical pasta dough and likes to break when forced through a pasta roller. I'm told you can also just use wonton wrappers, and if I had ready access to them I might, though I would imagine you would get a drier, less ravioli-like kreplach using them. 

yISop! Es gezunterheyt! 


     adapted from The Mile End Cookbook and Michael Ruhlman

For the filling:

1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots/scallion whites
1/2 lb. raw boneless chicken meat
1/4 lb. chicken skin and fat
2 chicken livers (optional-- I've made the without also and might prefer it that way)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. chopped chives/scallion greens
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the dough:

1 c. flour
1 egg
2 Tbsp. water
pinch salt

First, make the dough: Place the flour in a large bowl, and make a hole in the middle of the flour, adding the eggs, water and salt. Use a fork to whisk the water and eggs together, then slowly bring in the flour from the sides until you've incorporated all the flour. Knead a bit until you have a smooth, homogenous dough. Cover the dough with plastic and let it rest while you make the filling. 

Saute shallots/scallion whites in vegetable oil until translucent. Pulse chicken meat, skin/fat, livers, garlic, chives/scallion greens, salt and pepper very briefly in a food processor just until roughly chopped and combined, then stir in the cooked shallots/scallion whites. If you don't have a food processor, use a sharp knife (or a mezzaluna would probably work great) to finely chop the meat, livers and skin/fat. The last time I made these I froze the skin/fat and found it much easier to chop frozen. Stir together the chopped chicken with the rest of the filling ingredients. (I've over-processed the filling before, and personally I strongly prefer a slightly chunky filling over a homogenous one, which is why I haven't try doing this in the blender, not that you would ever consider doing that.)

Roll out the dough quite thinly, less than 1/8 in., and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut out 3 in. x 3 in. squares. Place a dollop of filling in the center of each square, then pinch the sides to seal. You can do a four-cornered pinch like me, or you can just fold them over diagonally, corner to corner, to get triangle ones. You can also use a bit of water or beaten egg to help seal the edges if they don't want to stick together, but I haven't found this necessary (if you were to use wonton wrappers, this will definitely be necessary).

Drop the kreplach into simmering soup (or boiling water) and cook until they float up to the surface, like ravioli. 

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