Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to Russia, Comrade!

Well here we are again:  Day one of a new country is done.  For dinner, we had cabbage pirogi and apple cake.  It seems that pirogi are a staple in Russia as well as Poland, but Russian piroghi are larger and like a pot pie while Polish pirogi (pirozhki in Russian) are more like, as we told the kids, Polish ravioli.  We actually found that Poland and Russia share many of the same dishes and customs, but at least slightly different.

As these things usually go, Angel had been cooking for several hours when I got home from work.  The sharlotka, apple cake, was finished and waiting on the counter, and Angel was fighting with the dough for the piroghi.  A rolling pin was thrust at me, and I was directed to make the dough 16x24".  Unfortunately, the dough was too dry, and became more crack-y and distorted the more I worked.  Eventually, Angel spooned the filling into it, and attempted to fold the dough over.  Whereupon it ripped.  She worked with it, and got it to fold over the filling, and crimped it, and we then needed to lever a 9" pirogi onto a greased cookie sheet.  I had the bright idea of just sliding the sheet under it, but that proved to be problematic.  Finally, it took three spatulas in concert to roll the food onto the pan, and it left a large percentage of crust on the counter.  We picked up pieces and packed them over holes and managed to craft a food item that was ugly, but more or less sealed.

Piroghi, Uncooked

Into the oven for a half hour, and when it came out, it'd baked together fairly well -- well enough to keep the contents moist, anyway.  We did, unfortunately, have to eat an accelerated dinner due to my oldest daughter's T-Ball practice at 6:30pm.  So, when the food hit the table, we all dug in.  Well, all but Allison who looked at the lump of crust, cabbage and other ingredients and pronounced, "I hate it" before taking a bite.  There proceeded to be crying, and extortion involving a sippy cup of milk, but in the end she tried it -- no doubt partially due to all of her siblings eating the piroghi with thumbs-up -- and found out it wasn't too bad.

In contrast to the Polish pirogi, I found this to be lighter by far.  Instead of heavy cheese, it was filled with a mixture of cabbage, onion, boiled egg and a bit of dill, and the crust was much thinner.  There was no bacon grease, no pork and no butter involved in the making of this piroghi, and while Angel still has a post-Poland aversion to dill, I thought it tasted wonderful.

Sharlotka and Piroghi

Next, the apple cake.  Angel said that in addition to the Granny Smith apples, it only had three ingredients.  It too, was delicious.  The apples' flavor came through the uncomplicated cake and it was a tart, juicy dessert.



Recipes:

Cabbage Pirozhki or Piroghi

This recipe involves three steps: making the dough, making the filling, and assembling the pies.

Ingredients for dough

  • 2½ cups sifted flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • Ice water

Ingredients for filling

  • 5 cups chopped cabbage (2 small heads of cabbage)
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon dill or parsley, minced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs

Procedure

  1. Make dough: Sift dry ingredients together. Add shortening and butter into dry mixture, mixing with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture looks like oatmeal.
  2. Beat the egg slightly in a measuring cup and add enough ice water to make ½ cup fluid. Pour egg and water into the flour mixture and mix well.
  3. Roll out the dough on a board or countertop dusted with more flour. If the dough seems sticky, sprinkle the surface of the dough and the rolling surface with more flour.
  4. To make piroghi (large pie): Roll dough into a rectangle approximately 24 inches x 16 inches. It is ready for stuffing.
  5. To make pirozhki (small pies): Take eggsized balls of dough, flatten, and roll out. Repeat with remaining dough. The small pies are now ready for stuffing.
  6. Make filling: Remove the tough outer leaves from 2 heads of cabbage, and cut the heads into quarters, removing the tough core. Chop the cabbage leaves finely.
  7. Mix cabbage with salt in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour the cabbage into a colander in the sink and drain.
  8. Heat 4 cups of water to boiling and carefully pour boiling water over the cabbage in the colander. Let drain.
  9. Next, melt the butter in a large skillet and add the chopped onion. Sauté until softened (about 5 minutes).
  10. Add the drained cabbage to the skillet and continue cooking, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the cabbage is soft (about 30 minutes).
  11. While the cabbage is cooking, remove the shells from the hard-boiled eggs and chop the eggs.
  12. Add dill or parsley and chopped eggs to the cooked cabbage and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
  13. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  14. To assemble piroghi: Transfer the dough rectangle to the greased cookie sheet.
  15. Spread the cabbage mixture over ½ the dough, fold the dough over and pinch the edges together.
  16. To assemble pirozhki: Fill each pirozhki with about 1½ Tablespoons of the cabbage mixture.
  17. Pinch edges together and place on a greased cookie sheet with the seamless edge up.
  18. Bake the piroghi for about 30 minutes, until golden.
  19. Bake the pirozhkis for about 15 minutes.

Sharlotka (Apple Cake)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tart apples, such as Granny Smith

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, and eggs, beating well to completely dissolve the sugar.
  3. Wash the apples, cut them into quarters, and cut away the core and seeds.
  4. Cut the apples into thin slices.
  5. Grease a round cake pan and dust it lightly with flour or plain, unseasoned white bread crumbs to prevent the cake from sticking.
  6. Arrange all apple slices on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour the batter mixture over the apples, spreading it gently with a rubber spatula.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out dry and the cake is beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan.
  9. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and place a serving plate over the pan. Invert the pan (turn the pan upside-down) onto the serving plate. May be served warm or at room temperature.
-- Both recipes from the "Food in Every Country" website.

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