This Week From Bubbie’s Kitchen
Nearly 25 years ago Temple B’nai Israel of Laconia held its first Jewish Food Festival. It began as a hot dog stand attached to a rummage sale and grew into one of the premiere events of the summer season in the Lakes Region. In 2021, the Festival continues its new virtual look with an expanded menu and more surprises. How does the magic happen? In the small temple kitchen, many hands come together to transform raw ingredients to the mouthwatering foods the Lakes Region has been enjoying for nearly a quarter of a century. Your tour guide through this wonderful process is none other than Bubbie herself. (Bubbie, by the way, is Yiddish for grandmother.) Over the next four weeks, she will talk about the process of making these favorite foods from the festival: Knishes, Blintzes, Latkes, and Rugelach.
So, it is time to meet Bubbie
When I came from Eastern Europe as a small girl in the early 1900’s, my family brought many recipes with them to New York City and I have been using them ever since. This week, I want to tell you about the knishes which my own Bubbie taught me to make. What is a knish you ask? It’s a flaky dough filled with either hand ground beef brisket or seasoned potatoes and onions.
To make the potato mixture, first you need to choose the right potatoes! I only use Russet because they are high in starch and are soft and light when mashed. But I do not mash the potatoes, I rice them which guarantees that there are no lumps, just the smoothest silkiest knish fillings you can make. Once the potatoes are ready, I slice the onions and sauté them in light olive oil just until they are translucent. In the old country, we used chicken fat (we call it schmaltz) to fry the onions, but here they will not let me keep chickens at my assisted living home and I am told olive oil is much better for you and improves the flavor and texture of the knish. Finally, you can use your favorite dough recipe, but it must be flaky and light or else you may find that the knish is better as a door stop or a hockey puck than a food for humans. Make sure you brush with an egg wash (I still wish that I had those chickens) to make a golden-brown knish.
As much as I love the onion and potato knish, the meat knish, made with ground brisket, is my favorite. Some places use ground beef, feh! Homemade brisket is more expensive and far more work, but it is worth it. The whole brisket is cooked for several hours in onions and garlic, to give it zest, and whole cranberries to give a little sweetness. It is incredible if I do say so myself! The prime top portion of the brisket is sliced and sold in ½ pound packages on the Food Festival website, www.tbinh.org. The filling for the knishes is ground from the marbled, juicier round portion and combined with celery, carrots, onions, and seasoning. To bind this all together, I add just a small amount of the riced russet potatoes. Then they are wrapped in the dough, given an egg wash, and baked to a golden brown. The aroma from these baking in the oven reminds me of kitchens on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Next week, a Food Festival longtime favorite – LATKES. Oy gevalt, (good grief) are they good!!
Until then, Zei Gazunt (be well).