Russian recipes for theme dinner
Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone mentioning blini. I think I use the yeasty buckwheat recipe that's in Joy of Cooking. Lovely with codfish roe if you don't want to splash out on caviar, a dab of creme fraiche (or sour cream)... My husband and I make these for New Years.
If you are serious, try Little Russia in US (formerly Little Russia in san Antonio)on Google. they have an exhaustive recipe exchange board.
If you have time and the materials,make your own pickles...all the difference in the world. Try a soup other than borscht: as good as it is (summer or winter versions) it is only one of many excellent slavic soups. Selianka is a favorite (meat version is "less refined" than fish but I like it better) or Kharcho (which purists will point out is Georgian but what the hell, you can get it in Moscow).
Te post about Pillsbury jibes with my experience. For pel'meni, though, make your own dough. Make enough to freeze (outside, if possible, for the authentic touch).
I did this sort of theme dinners few years back, all with recipes from Please to the Table.* We tried out a whole bunch of recipes and ended up making:
Chicken stuffed with sauerkraut and cabbage
Meatballs with raisins (and nuts of some kind? don't remember)
Pomegranate and onion salad (more like a relish)
Marinated mushrooms (easy, do-ahead and delicious)
Pork and prune stew (everyone loved this)
Kasha baked with wild mushrooms
Carrots with cumin
Russian black bread
Sour cherry dumplings
We also took a trip to a local Russian store and picked up some Russian candies, pickles, and other odds and ends. I really loved the food; this was my favorite of the culinary theme parties I've had in the last few years. I have made the pork and prune stew, the stuffed chicken, the strudel and and marinated mushrooms quite a few times since.
We also made some flavored vodkas. The two winners were the pink peppercorn and the caraway seed. The blueberry was rather icky, the cranberry fine, but more pedestrian.
*note: Please to the Table is subtitled, "The Russian Cookbook<" but it would be more accurate to say that it is a "former-Soviet" cookbook since many regions are represented.
I checked out 'Please to the Table' from the library. What a great book! I've been reading it for fun. I think I'm going to do the pork with prune stew and the cumin scented carrots. Hoping that my friends will add some black bread, veggies, and pelmeni.
Thanks for the book and menu recs.
I'll report back after dinner on Sunday.
Here is an idea for the main course: Chicken roasted in a bag, stuffed with prunes.
Chicken stuffed with prunes is a traditional Russian dish, and roasting it in a paper bag is the twist that became popular in Moscow in the 80's. It sounds deceptively simple, but tastes like much more than the sum of its parts. The bag keeps the chicken really moist and creates a dish that's somewhere in between roasting and braising. The best part is the crispy skin in the back of the chicken that gets stuck to the bag. When the chicken is gone, we just stand around the torn bag, nibble on the cracklings, and dip pirozhki into pan juices.
Note: I find liquore stores to be the best places to get a plain brown bag. It should be just large enough to fit the chicken.
1 papper bag without any color or writing
5 garlic cloves, mashed
1 heaping Tbsp of kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3-4 Lb chicken
1 cup pitted prunes
1 Tbsp of butter at room temp, plus more for buttering the bag
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Butter the inside of the paper bag (on one side).
Mash garlic with salt and pepper until they form a paste.
Rinse the chicken and dry with paper towels inside and out. Rub with garlic paste inside and out. Stuff with prunes, and spread 1 Tbsp of butter on its breast.
Place the chicken in the bag (so that its back is on the buttered part). Fold up the bag's opening and stapple it together (or tie it with a string). Place on a baking sheet and roast in the middle of the oven for 1 hour 45 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes. Tear the bag on top with a knife to remove the chicken and serve.
My friend recently held a Russian-themed dinner, of which a very successful dish were the pelmeni. They are siberian dumplings filled with a primarily meat (we used beef) and onion mixture. The dough is very similar to pasta dough and can be made by hand. Although there are many recipes online, I will submit the one my friend used for the dinner when I get my hands on it (hopefully tonight). These dumplings are boiled, although we opted to saute them in a little butter after boiling them first.
Hey, you guys are making me hungry! Can you tell I am Russian ;)
Yes, pelmeni is a wonderful dish. I learned to make them from my Mom, so of course, there are no measurements (or recipe) to speak of. But I did write some basics down.
Here is the dough:
3.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup cold water
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the egg and the water.
Using a fork, start mixing the flour into the water keeping the wet mixture in the center of the well. When the mixture gets too thick for a fork, mix the dough with your hand until all the flour is incorporated and the dough looks cohesive.
Clean your hands and press your thumb into the dough. It should feel tacky, but your thumb should come out clean without any dough stuck to it. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, kneed for a minute and test again.
Once the dough is the right consistency, it needs some serious kneading. Place it onto a clean work surface and knead for 8 minutes by folding and turning 90 degrees after each fold. Always turn the dough in the same direction. Do not short cut this step! You should end up with dough that is as smooth as a baby's bottom.
Form the dough into a thick disk, sprinkle with flour, wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
For the filling:
There are as many variations of the filling as there are Russian cooks. I like to use a mix of beef and pork, but veal is also excellent. Just make sure to use fatty meat, none of those 90% lean types. Fatty meat, cabbage leaves, and extra water are the tricks to juicy pelmeni.
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cabbage leaves, chopped
1 Lb beef
1/2 Lb pork
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Process onions and cabbage leaves in the food processor until very finely chopped (consistency of oatmeal). Mix beef, pork, onions, cabbage, water, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook a little piece in a pan or microwave. Taste and correct seasoning.
To shape pelmeni, cut the dough into 6 parts. Work with one piece at a time. Roll it out to 2mm thickness. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a glass. Fill each circle with a teaspoon of filling, pinch together like Polish pirogies, and then connect the edges to make a tortellini like shape. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Keep refrigerated until cooking. Or you can freeze them. Once they are in the freezer for 1 day, remove them from a cookie sheet and put in a large zip lock bag.
Boil them in a lot of salted water for about 3 minutes after they float. Serve with A LOT of butter and/or sour cream. Some people also like sprinkling them with a little bit of white vinegar.
Pirozhki (filled yeast buns) with potato and mushrooms are a great accompaniment to any Russian main course. If you like to bake, make your own brioche dough, but Pillsbury biscuits work surprisingly well. Believe it or not, that's what most Russians living in US use :)
Below is the picture of pirozhki I made the other week with brioche dough from Julia Child's second volume of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." But it's really all about the filling, so if you don't have time to make your own dough, they'll still taste great.