Recipe: The time of year to get your fill of kreplach
I am always impressed by the fact that food plays such an important role during the holiest of Jewish holidays, and kreplach — dough wrapped around meat and boiled, fried or baked — is certainly one of these dishes. Traditionally, it is served between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
During this period, it is believed that the fate of each individual is decided, and then sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. The custom of serving kreplach alludes to the hope that kindness will overrule any strict judgment we may deserve. There is also the concept that a person’s good deeds are also sealed in the same manner as these stuffed savories.
Kreplach are said to go back as far as the 12th century, and each country seems to have its own version of a filled, egg-noodle dough. It is recorded that meat-stuffed pasta, shaped like ravioli or tortelloni, were served by the Jews of Germany in the early 14th century. Later, a variety of fillings were developed including chicken, kasha, cabbage, cheese and even apples. European Jews also served kreplach stuffed with dried fruit and nuts for dessert.
In Italy, near Mantua, where many Jewish families once lived, they still serve tortelli di zucca. These pumpkin- or squash-filled ravioli are served with butter and Parmesan cheese and said to be one of the foods brought by Jews to the area.
My husband remembers when he was growing up in Boyle Heights, his bubbe (grandmother) made kreplach during the Jewish holidays, rolling out the dough on a wooden board and cutting each square by hand. He reminisced that Bubbe would serve these kasha- and roast meat-filled kreplach in a clear chicken soup.
There seems to be some controversy about the shape of kreplach. At a recent dinner with friends, we discussed the various shapes and sizes that each family made. Some use a 4-inch square of dough that they fill and fold into triangles resembling tortellini. Others begin with rounds of dough, resulting in a crescent shape resembling potstickers. And still others use two squares of dough that end up resembling ravioli.
Whatever the shape, everyone agreed on one thing: They are delicious.
Ground Chicken Filling or Kasha Filling (recipes follow)
3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
Prepare Ground Chicken Filling or Kasha Filling; refrigerate until ready to use.
Place 3 cups flour and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Turn processor on and off once. Then, with processor running, drop in one egg and, the instant it is blended in, turn off processor. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, until the dough is crumbly or resembles a coarse meal. Add olive oil and water, processing just until dough begins to come away from side of bowl.
Remove dough to a floured wooden board; knead just until smooth. Divide dough into 3 or 4 pieces for easier handling. While rolling out first piece, cover remainder with an inverted large bowl so dough does not dry out.
Roll each piece out on a floured board into thin sheet. Use plenty of flour to avoid sticking. Cut into 3- to 4-inch squares or rounds. Place a teaspoon of filling on each square. Brush edges with water and fold the corners to meet and seal. Bring 2 corners together and seal like a kerchief. For rounds, fold over, brush edges with water, and pinch to seal. Place a kitchen towel on a baking sheet and dust with flour. Place each kreplach on towel and cover with another towel. Refrigerate or freeze if preparing in advance. Serve in soup or brown in oil.
Makes about 40 kreplach.
GROUND CHICKEN FILLING
3 tablespoons unsalted margarine
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1 pound ground chicken, cooked (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a skillet, melt margarine; sauté onions, garlic and green pepper. Add the chicken, egg yolks, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Filling may be cooked and refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day before using.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
4 tablespoons unsalted margarine
1 onion, minced
1 cup whole roasted kasha (buckwheat kernels)
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a skillet, melt margarine and sauté onion until tender. Combine kasha and 1 egg; add to onion mixture. Sauté until the grains become dry and crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until kasha is soft and chicken stock is reduced. While cooking, uncover and stir to prevent kasha from sticking to bottom of pot. Add salt and pepper. Cool.
Makes about 3 cups.
TRADITIONAL KREPLACH WITH WONTONS
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 pounds chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
48 (4-inch) wonton wrappers
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large roasting pot, place 1 sliced onion, garlic and chuck roast. Add salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 2 to 3 hours or until very tender. Sauté remaining sliced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender.
Remove fat from meat and grind meat with both onions; place in large bowl. Add 1 egg, and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill wrappers.
In a small bowl, lightly beat remaining 1 egg.
Arrange 6 wonton wrappers on work surface. Spoon a scant tablespoon of meat mixture in center of each. Brush two adjacent edges of the wrapper with lightly beaten egg. Fold dry opposite corner over to meet point to form a triangle. Press edges together, forcing air from center. Twist point at one end of fold to meet opposite point of fold, like a kerchief. Moisten point with beaten egg and press points together to stick. Repeat with remaining wrappers and meat mixture. (At this point, kreplach can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.)
Heat remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet; fry kreplach on both sides until golden brown. Drain briefly on paper towels.
Makes about 48 kreplach.
Apple Filling (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups flour plus additional for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
3 tablespoons water
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Prepare Apple Filling; refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and powdered sugar. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in 1/2 cup margarine until mixture is crumbly. Blend in water until dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 5 to 10 minutes in refrigerator.
While dough is chilling, line a baking sheet with foil. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; use it to brush the foil.
Divide dough into 6 parts. Working with 1 part at a time, roll out on a large sheet of floured waxed paper, 1/4-inch thick and cut out a 6-inch circle, using a cake round or lid as a guide. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the apple filling on half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Carefully fold circle in half, pinching the edges together securely; press edges with tines of a fork to seal. Place filled kreplach on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush tops lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining dough. (If preparing kreplach ahead, they can be covered with foil and stored in refrigerator or freezer at this point.)
Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Using a metal spatula, transfer to dessert plates. Drizzle honey over the top.
Makes 36 to 48 kreplach.
5 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, toss apple slices with brown sugar, lemon juice, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.
Makes about 4 cups.
Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com
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