Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weekend fare--Piroshke

I know I've mentioned piroshke before, but they're so amazing that I have to talk about them again. Piroshke is what Shane calls "Russian Hot Pockets". In the tradition of pretty much every country ever, where portable food ends up being a necessity for somebody (think: sandwiches, Irish pasties, Italian stromboli, things of that sort) a piroshke is simply bread wrapped around a filling and cooked. They're delicious, versatile, and perfect for when you know you'll have a busy week and want to prepare something super easy to grab on your way out the door.
I say they're weekend fare because it does take some time to make them. At least, if you're going to do them right it does. (You could buy pre-made bread dough, but that defeats the purpose of cooking at home I think.) I was actually taught how to make these by a Russian, so they're as authentic as they can be.
Basically, you have two parts. There's the bread dough, and the filling. The filling can be whatever you want it to be, so how you make the bread depends entirely on what you want to fill it with since they can be either sweet or savory. For meals I usually do a moose/onion mix and a cabbage/carrot mix. You can also do mashed potato filling (for a starch and carb overload), and I was thinking of trying a broccoli/cheddar mix sometime. (If you try it before me, let me know how it turns out.) I've only once made a sweet dessert-like piroshke, but there's a reason for that. It turns out that homemade blueberry pie filling/cream cheese makes a dangerously delicious combination.
Make bread dough like usual, either plain white or half wheat/half white works well. (Don't do sourdoughs. They wouldn't taste right.) You can make as much or as little bread dough as you want. For the two of us to eat a few meals of these I find that two cups of liquid makes the right amount, although that would probably only feed a family of four for one meal with a few leftover.
If you're making a sweet piroshke, up the sugar content to make the dough sweet.
Set the dough out to rise. When it's almost risen, start preparing your filling(s). This last time I did half a cabbage with one grated carrot, cooked until the cabbage was tender but not mushy, with just a bit of salt for flavoring. Since Shane hates cabbage, the other filling was a pound of ground moose meat with 3/4 of an onion (leftover from something else) chopped small. I sweated the onion first, then added the meat to brown. Play around with seasonings. I did salt, pepper, garlic powder, and two dashes of allspice. (It's really yummy dipped in barbecue sauce.) But I've also thought that Worcestershire sauce would be a good addition (I'm trying that next time) and you can season it however you prefer.
When the bread is done rising and the filling is done cooking, then you have to put it all together. You'll need another pan or skillet for this. (We use an electric skillet, but one on the stove top would work just as well.) Pour some oil in and get it heating up. (Any oil works. I've used canola, peanut, and olive oils. All work well, all are tasty.) Don't fill up the oil as if you're frying chicken. Just a little bit is good. The dough will absorb it during the cooking process, so you'll need to add more periodically.
Grab a small ball of dough and pat it flat in your hands. (And I do mean flat--just be careful not to create holes.) I make them about the size of my palms, maybe a little larger. Since the bread has only risen once, it will rise again when it's cooked and the piroshke will end up much larger than you think they will. Making it the size of my palm at the start means they're almost as big as my hand when I'm done. Scoop a little bit of the filling out of your pot and into the dough. If you do it right (I rarely do) you can fold the dough around the filling like an envelope. An envelope filled with deliciousness. But the filling can be kind of tricky to work with, so usually I end up making amorphous blobs of bread and filling. If you end up with a hole in the dough, just patch it up with more dough. Two notes: one, keep your drink away from the filling process. I accidentally dumped some cabbage into my tea because I had it right there. Next: fill over a pot, like the pot you cooked the filling in. I kept forgetting and my dog feasted on dropped bits of moose meat. This is why we can't keep her out of the kitchen.
When the skillet and the oil are hot, drop the piroshke in there (gently) and brown on either side, then on the ends. It takes a little bit of time (and be careful not to get the skillet too hot--our electric one does well between 325^-350^) but most of the time you're not actively doing anything. I get the first few started and then make the rest while those are cooking. Sometimes the skillet gets too crowded and I can't add anymore, so it's helpful to either have a movie on or a book handy. (A book that you can get messy. :)
The piroshke is done when it's lightly browned on each side. Allow a few minutes to cool so you don't burn your tongue off, then feast. They're super easy to microwave later on (although, like a Hot Pocket, they will be lava-hot in the middle so eat warily) although they don't freeze as well as you'd hope. That's never mattered to us, since they go so quickly.
One final note: if you have a picky eater, or someone who doesn't like one of the fillings you're making (ahem...Shane...ahem) they're very hard to tell apart once they're done cooking. It helps to try to keep them in separate parts of the pan, but that doesn't always work, because if you're anything like me you'll lose track after a while. So you might just have to tell them to deal with it. Or, if you're super nice, you can offer to eat any that they mistake for a different kind.
Two-three of these make a thoroughly filling meal for an adult.

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