24 December 2009

Recipe: Piroshky

My sister and I made piroshky today. It's a Russian sort of stuffed meat bun. I think there are as many ways to make piroshky as there are people in Russia, but my brother-in-law's method includes meat, cabbage, and of course dill.

Here's a kind of sort of recipe and a how-to.

1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lg onion, diced fairly small
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups cabbage, sliced into thin strips, then cross-cut into 1-in strips
1.5 lbs ground beef (or combination of beef, pork, veal or fresh pork sausage)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3-4 tbsp dried dill or to taste

Heat oil in a large deep skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and cabbage. Cook until the cabbage begins to soften and cook down. According to my brother-in-law, you should let the cabbage scorch - it does add flavour, but I have a really hard time intentionally burning food, even for flavour, so I haven't done it.

Once the cabbage is mostly softened, add in your ground meat. I used about 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef, plus a half pound of spicy pork sausage. Season to taste with salt and pepper, plus add in a lot of dried dill. I didn't measure what I used, but I'm sure it was pretty close to 4 tablespoons of dried dill. Oh, and I added a couple teaspoons of paprika; I'd forgotten about that. I'm not sure it added any noticable flavour, it was just a thought I had. Once the meat is cooked through, taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove the mixture from the stove and set aside to cool.

Just a note: normally I used extra lean ground beef, but it's easy with this dish to get a really dry filling, so we used lean ground and didn't drain off any of the fat. To be honest, I didn't even notice any fat in the pan, but it was still very moist once it was cooked and the piroshky are noticably moister than some we've made in the past when we cooked the meat seperately from the cabbage and drained the excess fat.

A second note: We were left with probably 3 cups of excess filling. So probably I should list half the amount of everything or else double the amount of dough. Piroshky do freeze well. However, we froze the excess filling for a future batch of piroshky or else to make into a lazy cabbage roll casserole type dish - add tomato soup or tomato sauce (plus extra cabbage, since this is a meat heavy filling) and some cooked rice and bake it all up and yum. Deliciousness.

While your filling is cooking, you can get started on the dough. I'm not at all confident with bread doughs, but this is the recipe my sister and B-i-L always use and the one we used today.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose white flour
vegetable oil to brush over piroshky

Dissolve the yeast in the quarter cup of warm water, setting aside in a warm place until the yeast becomes frothy, about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the milk and gently whisk in the eggs, oil, sugar, and salt. I don't know why you are supposed to warm these ingredients, but Jen does it and it seems to work. DO NOT cook your eggs.

Place half the flour in a large mixing bowl and gradually stir in the milk mixture. Then add the yeast solution alternately with the remaining flour, stirring after each addition. Mix well. Knead until the dough forms a ball and does not stick to the bowl. (Note: Start with the 4 cups of flour. You may need to add more, a little at a time, as you knead the dough). Cover the bowl with a clean cloth. Set in a warm location and let rise until doubled in volume.

Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Pinch off pieces approximately the size of golf balls. Roll the pieces into disks about 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. Fill center of each disk with a heaping tablespoon of the cooled meat mixture.

Fold disks over the mixture, firmly pinch edges to seal, and tuck the ends under so that you form an elongated bun shape, rather than a half-moon. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush over the tops with vegetable oil.

A small word of warning: try to keep from rolling the dough too thin as they will sometimes split while baking. You can tell you've got your dough stretched around too much filling if the meat is visible under the layer of dough. (See here for a reference. They don't always split - none of ours did today - but sometimes they will and it can be messy.)

We haven't quite worked out the baking directions yet. My B-i-L usually bakes them at 400F for about 15 minutes, but I find they burn on the bottom that way and only just darken on the tops. I did mine about 14 minutes at 375F for my first tray. rotating the pan half way through. The bottoms darkened more than I liked, while the tops were still quite pale, so I flipped them over and let them cook an extra 1 minute until they browned a little more on the top. The second tray I did at 350, also for 14 minutes, flipping them once again for an extra minute at the end, but they still came out quite pale (though cooked through).

My B-i-L cooks them on a very, very well-oiled pan, so I do wonder if they kind of "fry" on the bottoms in the oven, leading to such dark bottoms, while the tops stay relatively unbrowned. I don't know. Baking really isn't my strong point, so I'm not sure if I'm full of it or if I'm on to something with the thought. Next time we make them, I'm only going to JUST barely grease the pan (and brush oil over top) and see if that helps with the problem of dark bottoms.

In any case, I can't emphasize enough how delicious these things are. You really can fill them any way you please, most people seem to use meat/onion only, but others put in cheese or mushrooms or other vegetables. I think the only really standards are the dill and the ground meat. I think they're pretty amazing with cabbage. My mom makes them sometimes, but very small, about 2-in long only with about a tsp filling in them. She makes beef/cabbage and pork/sauerkraut ones. (I don't care for the sauerkraut.) I don't know that these are traditional to eat at holidays, but that seems to be the times when we make them at our house.

Nom nom.

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