Matzah Balls

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All right, so it’s that time of the month when I come out of hiding to contribute to the kosher food blogging world, in this month’s version of the Kosher Connection- Link up. If you’re new to the program, every month there’s a theme, and a bunch of reputable food bloggers, and myself, get together to give their version of that theme. This month’s theme is “Get well Gil.” For the uninitiated, Gil Marks is one of the foremost experts on kosher food, and it’s long history. In fact he even wrote a freaking encyclopedia on it! I happen to love the book, and it only weighs in at a whopping 650ish pages, so you know, it’s typical light reading fare. But in all honesty, the book is incredible, and it literally covers everything imaginable related to kosher food, from Adafina to Zwetschgenkuchen (“a cross between a cake and tart made with Italian prune plums”), I highly recommend taking a gander.

Anyway, I was trying to think what would be an appropriate recipe, and it dawned on me – Matzah Balls! Think about it – it’s the ultimate healing food, plus, it’s one of those foods that epitomizes Jewish cooking (sorry S’fardim, I guess you don’t count!…I joke, next time I’ll make Jachnun, or something scary sounding like that). Onward!

Quoting Gil in the Encyclopedia:

“..By the 12th century, the concept of dumplings, originally made from bread, had spread from Italy to Bohemia, where it was called knodel (knot). From there, the name traveled with variations in pronunciation, to southern Germany, Austria, and France. The term also traveled eastward to the Slavic regions. The most widespread Ashkenazic name for dumpling became knaidel/kneydl, which is better know by the plural knaidlach/kneydlakh

As the medieval period waned, flour began to replace bread as the base…During the 8 days of Passover…Germans discovered that they could substitute matza for the bread or flour, creating the most widely known type..matzah knaidel

It was only in the early 20th century, after Manischewitz introduced packaged matza meal, that this dumpling achieved mass popularization and it’s current status as an iconic Jewish food.

Matza balls consist of only a few ingredients – matza meal, eggs, a little far, a liquid, salt, and pepper. Using matza meal in place of flour, and adding eggs resulsts in a lighter dumpling. Adding fat…produces a more flavorful dumplings…

Now, ever since our post on chicken stock, I’m sure that like me, you also have some chicken shmaltz lying around in the fridge (or maybe some duck fat??), and seriously, what better way than to incorporate it into some matzah meal, with some of that stock…it’s like the circle of life, man. First you make chicken, then with the leftover bones and scraps, you make stock. With that stock you get the base of your chicken soup, and you also have shmaltz to make knaydlach….it’s so deep man.

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I actually used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for this (I like that everything is by weight…because, you know… a scale…I’m like a broken record over here…), and I took some matzah, and added it to a food processor to pulverize.

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To that I added, the remaining dry ingredients: baking powder, some fresh rosemary (which I had lying around, but you can use whatever you see fit), salt, and black pepper.

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I melted some fresh chicken fat (you can use vegetable oil if you’re a lightweight), added it to 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of fresh chicken stock, and mixed it all together.

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Then I mixed together, the dry and wet ingredients, and after thoroughly combined, I let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to fully hydrate.

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Before you’re ready to go, bring a pot of salted water to a simmer.

Then I rolled it up into golf-ish sized balls (remember, they’re going to grow, so smaller than you expect….I make this mistake, every time mind you).

Dump the kneydels into the salted water, and cook until they’re nice and fluffy,  about 20-30 minutes.

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And there you have it…there might be some of you out there (ahem – Phoenix Fresser..) why not just make this out of a box mix?? Well I’m going to preempt that by saying, Hashem gets angry when you use a box mix (especially duncan hines…but that’s another post).

Anyway, we here at the Kosher Gastronome Headquarters would like to wish a full and speedy recovery to Gil (Yitzchak Simcha ben Baila).

As always with the Kosher Link Ups, click on the funny frog guy below to see what the other peoples are doing.

Matzah Balls:

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares of matzo (ie –  1 cup/140 grams matzo meal), well pulverized in a food processor
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped rosemary (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer
  4. Drop in balls, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

 

Pie Dough

 

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Look at those layers of flaky goodness

After that post the other day, I realized I need to be doing this blogging thing more often. Mind you, I come to that realization once or twice a week, and you can see how well that’s been working. Anyway enough about me, let’s talk about you for a change.
How quickly did you shudder when you saw the title of this post? “Pie crust?? But isn’t that super hard? Its an unattainable food item, that will forever be relegated to super chefs, like Nossi Fogel, the likes of which will never be reached by me, a mere mortal.” Well my friend I’m here to tell you that I too once felt that way, but with a little tenacity and only 5 payments of $9.99, pie crusts can be yours too.
So where to begin…first thing first after all the many attempts to get you to purchase a scale, I can only assume you haven’t yet…well here’s your chance to right this ship. This pie dough is really very easy, provided you have a scale. Then again so is practically everything else in the kitchen, such as making custard, which is how you would make a quiche, which spoiler alert: is going to be the next post…sometime in the distant future.
Ok so now that a scale had been procured, the ratio that Michael Ruhlman uses is the 3:2:1 pie dough. 3 parts flour, to 2 parts fat, to 1 part water. So for all you Rhode scholars out there, if say you were using 100 grams of butter, you would need 150 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water. I think you can appreciate how easy and customizable that is if you have a scale, right? So I don’t have to convince you to buy a scale again correct? Moving right along.
The real tricky part of pie dough is accomplishing a sturdy and crispy crust that is not too tough and chewy, and it turns out we have tricks to accomplish this also, so worry not my friend.
Lets review what a pie dough really is. It falls into the category of laminated doughs, which mean there are layers of fat between layers of dough (as I’m sure you’ll no doubt remember from our scallion pancake recipe). The way to accomplish this in pie dough is to disperse small pockets of fat throughout the dough, that will essentially melt into separate layers that will separate the other  areas of dough. Now those “other areas of dough” is essentially the part of the dough where the flour and water mixed together. (If you look at the top picture of the post, you’ll see a few distinct layers of dough, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish..)

If we were to separate these two elements, the fat dispersal and the flour and water mixing, we can really get an understanding why people think it’s difficult to make pie dough, and come up with some solutions.

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For the fat dispersal mission – the key is to get smallish pieces of fat, that will melt while the flour-water mixture is setting up. If it melts too soon, then it won’t disperse throughout the whole thingamabob, and it won’t make those distinct layers we talked about. The key to making sure you don’t do this is keeping the fat as cold as possible. The colder it is, the longer it takes for the fat to melt. So what I like to do, is cut the fat into cubes, and then place it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If my inner boy scout is calling, and I really want to do everything k’fi halacha, then I will place everything in the freezer…the food processor and all components, the flour, and even the whole kitchen. It all just goes into the freezer.

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Notice the chunks of fat dispersed among the flour

Then, when ready to mix the fat into the flour, you basically measure out your flour (pop quiz hot shot – what are we using to measure?? A scale! riiiiiighhhht???), if you want it to be a sweet dough, add some sugar, and before adding the fat, I like to aerate the flour (and pulverize the sugar if it’s in there) by pulsing a few times. Oh and salt, always add salt, because salt isn’t just a spice, it’s a flavor enhancer… (right mommy ;) ???). Anyway, once the flour is aerated, plop the really cold fat on top of the flour, and pulse a few times until there are “pea sized” chunks of fat.

We are now ready to commence phase #2 – Operation liquefaction. Here really the main goal is to prevent too much gluten from forming. The classical way of doing this is with ice cold water. The cold water will eventually form gluten, but like anything that’s freezing, will do so at a slower rate, plus the ice cold water has the added advantage of not bringing down the temperature. However, water + flour will inevitably make gluten, but guess what, alcohol + flour, does not make gluten, so imagine if instead of using water, we could use vodka, and since you have a bottle sitting in your freezer right now, it’ll be ice cold also!  This little trick is thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, and I’ve done this multiple times, with excellent results.

after adding vodka/water
after adding vodka/water

So after you have your pea sized chunks of fat dispersed through the flour, add the vodka/water and pulse until it’s mostly combined. I like to plop it down on a work surface, and finish putting it all together by hand.

bring it all together on your work surface
bring it all together on your work surface

Once it’s all together into a disk-like blob, I like to put it back in the fridge (or freezer if not baking that day…it freezes very well) to cool it off again.

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I would say the last hard part about baking the dough is rolling it out, and honestly this just takes time, but guess what? No one cares if it looks like your 2 year old did it, and bonus idea – when your pie does look like your 2 year old rolled it out, just lie and tell them she did! I lie all the time, and look where it’s gotten me!

We’re going to blind-bake the crust (which is fancy talk for baking the pie crust without any filling in it). First take the disc, and start rolling. The easiest way to do this, is by rolling out, and rotating the dough a 1/4 turn, and rolling out. Maybe one of these days, when I get around to posting videos, I’ll post one on rolling pie dough, but until then just …umm, roll it, ok?

this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter....and this is what it looks like after blind-baking
this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter….and this is what it looks like after removing the weighted foil (before browning a little)

Once your dough is in the receptacle of your choosing, I like to “dock” the dough (fancy talk for poking holes in it [like with a fork] to allow gases to escape, and not get trapped underneath the dough, and potentially cause an air bubble), and then place aluminum foil on top, with weights on top of the foil. This also prevents any air bubbles from forming (for the weights – you can actually buy “pie weights” or you can use household items, like dried beans, or better yet – pennies). Then you bake it for about 10-15 minutes, remove the foil, and bake another 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown.

And that my friend is how we do.

Tune in next time when we take this seemingly innocent pie crust, and transform it into a quiche, using nothing more than a scale…Magic!!

 

Fried Potatoes Thingamaroonies

So if anyone is good at coming up with food names, there’s a position open here at The Kosher Gastronome headquarters. Pay is terrible, and the hours are long. Let me know.

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Here’s what went down with this dish. I had gotten it in my brain that I wanted to make something with filo dough (more on that in a second), and I had this vision of mashed potato and cheese. So I bought some filo dough, made some mashed potato*, and added some goat cheese. I folded it all up, brushed with some melted butter, and baked it. Now..this story is not about these quasi spanakopita thingies; nay…this story is about what happens next, and how the events transpire. Come, let me take you on a journey. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.

*I make my mashed potatoes thusly – cubed potatoes go in pot with cold water and salt. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, and while hot mix with fat (ie – butter), and whatever else tickles your fancy. I think I threw in parsley into this one. If you want to go really decadent, you can mix in heavy cream.

Ok, so first let’s talk filo dough. Remember way back in the day we made scallion pancakes, and we talked about “laminated dough?” Well, if you don’t, here’s the tl/dr (=”too long/didn’t read”). There’s a sub family of dough that gets it lift from fat separating the different layers of dough.

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Filo/fillo/phyllo dough is one of those, and they way they work, is you take these extremely thin sheets of dough, brush them with oil, then keep on stacking dough and oil until you have the thickness you want (usually around 3-6 sheets), and do whatever you were planning on using it for

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Like I said, the actual triangle thingy isn’t what we’re talking about (long story short, I made them on Thursday for a Saturday night, and by that time they were a little soggy…they tasted good but were too non-crispy, yaknow what I mean?)

Anyway, I had a whole lot of the scraps left over, and not being one to waste, I was trying to figure out what to do with them. I figured the filo is basically just dried up dough, meaning they can lend structure. I figured I would mix it with the mashed potatoes and cheese, and fry it up. I mean fried cooked dough? it’s essentially chremslach (how badly did I butcher that spelling?). But I figured something might be different if I add the filo. I dunno…it was an excuse to eat fried potatoes…all in the name of science.
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I rolled up this appetizing looking mush

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and fried these suckers

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So as you’ll notice from the top picture, they didn’t really stay in their spherical shape, but rather became more pancake like, so that being said, I don’t think the filo made a difference. However what I would tell you is these little fried potato thingamaroonies were pretty dang top notch! Huzzah!

Seriously, get some mashed potato, add some goat cheese and fry it, it’s really good.

So now that you’ve read this, can you think of an appropriate name please? Winner gets credit in the Kosher Gastronome Cookbook.

Blooming Onion & Beer Battered Onion Rings?? Two for the price of one!

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Hey friend, so you know I like you right? Well that’s why I am nice enough to let you in on the secret to perfect beer battered onion rings. No more will you be forced to eat onion rings which have no coating. We’re talking crisp, yet airy onion rings. That’s something you want isn’t it? Of course it is. If you tell me you don’t like onion rings, I don’t know if we could be friends.

That being said, I do have one caveat. You see apparently someone over at Joy Of Kosher thought I was pretty cool, and they actually asked me to do this guest post over on their blog, so if you want the ultimate secret to perfect Beer Battered Onion Rings, you’re just going to have to click on any of these shiny words. Or this one. You can also try this word…they all work. While you’re over there you can also vote for me as one of the Best Kosher Food Blogs, but you’re going to have to scroll all the way to the bottom, because I currently have a grand total of 2 votes (thanks mom and dad!)!

Anyway, go over there and make those onion rings, because they’re really awesome, but while you’re at it, and you have all that oil ready for some frying, why not make a blooming onion??? Genius, right? The batter is different than the one for the beer battered ones, and really the only thing that makes a blooming onion, is the preparation.

Take your onion, oh and we’re using the sweet Vidalia types, and peel the skin off while keeping the onion whole. Then you’re going to want to cut it into wedges without going all the way through the onion. Kind of like cutting a pizza, I guess…somehow…So start by making a cut from pole to pole, but don’t go all the way through. Then make a cut perpendicular to that one, again avoiding cutting all the way through, and keep on going until you have wedges.

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Place the onion in some ice water, and gently start teasing apart the “leaves.”

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Mix together 2 eggs, and set aside.

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Also mix together 1 cup of flour, with whatever spices you see fit (I used, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and cayenne…but use whatever you want, you can’t really go wrong). Pour enough hot water into the flour mixture that a thickish batter forms (like a thin pancake batter).

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Dip the onion into the eggs, and then the flour mixture, and fry until golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

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If we’re making blooming onions, you got to have a dipping sauce right? So I threw together mayo (about 1/3 cup), a splash of cider vinegar, sriracha, paprika, and mustard, and mixed it all together.

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Now the only issue I had with the blooming onion is it’s a pain in the butt to handle, and trying to keep all the leaves together, and all that…so I thought to myself, why not screw the whole blooming onion thing, but make those leaves anyway. So for batch #2, I did the same exact thing, but this time, I cut all the way through. That way, every last part of the onion was coated with the coating, and it fried up so much nicer. Plus, it was easier to handle post-frying, and also easier to dip. So unless you’re after the esthetics of a blooming onion, I say, go for the second way, it’ll be much easier for everyone.

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Another note – if you haven’t read the beer battered onion ring post (and seriously, why haven’t you yet?…oh you’re not sure where the actual post is?? Well why didn’t you say so…click here), the onions were soaked in a salt-water type of soak (we used beer in that recipe, but any salt water solution will work) to pull out the moisture from the onions, which if you use sweet onions, will have a lot of moisture so it will really benefit from the soak, which I didn’t do, and the final product did end up a little mushier than I wanted, and I think now’s a good time to end this extremely long run on sentence, no?

I’d love to hear what you’re planning on making for your superbowl party.

Blooming Onion

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Vidalia onions
  • 3 cups oil (or enough to cover the onion)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Hot water
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (or any type of hot sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • Hot paprika
  • Mustard powder

Directions:

  1. In a heavy bottom pot, heat up the oil over high heat (if using a thermometer, you want it to register about 350 before frying…if you don’t have a thermometer, you can either use a popcorn kernel which pops around 350, or you can use a wooden chopstick, and it should bubble around the chopstick when the oil is hot enough)
  2. Peel the outer layer of skin on the onion while keeping the onion whole. Then to make the blooming onion, cut through the onion, but not all the way through, and make wedges by cutting perpendicular to it, and continue going until you have a bunch of wedges as illustrated above. Alternatively, you can make the blooming onion by just making the “leaves,” by cutting all the way through.
    1. If you want, and I didn’t do this, but I recommend it, salt the onions after you cut them, and let them sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the moisture to come out of the onions
  3. Mix together the eggs and set aside
  4. Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and cayenne, and add enough hot water to form a thin-ish batter
  5. Dunk the onion in the egg, and then the flour mixture, and when the oil’s ready fry the onion until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes
  6. While the onion’s frying, make the dipping sauce – Combine the mayo, sriracha, vinegar, paprika and mustard and mix to combine