Kraut and Beef Knishes

One of the first things I decided upon opening my goodie bag of meats was to try my hand at making knishes with the pound of ground beef it contained. I usually leave the knish-making up to Rob. He is the resident Jew, after all, and he makes some mean knish. Mostly, I wanted to do it to say that I did it, but I also had a great deal of pastry leftover from making fishy bit pies and I had meaty knishes with a certain flavour profile in my head that needed to come out, so here we are.

The inside bits, what this recipe is all about, are really good. Neither Rob nor I have once yet managed to produce that classic knish pastry/dough that is somewhere between the commonly used puff pastry (which is not classic knish pastry/dough) and an austere, white bread. Once I got my knishes in the oven, I did a little digging on the intertubes for recipes for such a thing and came across a couple of contenders that are basically well-lubed, yeast doughs that aren’t leavened any more than they can be during their cooking time. I’m curious and excited to experiment with this idea, but if you’ve any thoughts toward this and/or recipes you think fit the bill, hit me! Please!

This recipe makes 8 goodly-sized knishes. Serve them with a simple salad and you’ve got yourself a meal. They also freeze nicely. Just wrap them in parchment paper, then pop ’em in a 375 oven from frozen and still wrapped for about 25 minutes.

What you need:

  • 1/2 recipe of Megan’s pastry (or enough pastry for three un-lided 9″ pies)
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds, lightly ground
  • 8 cloves, ground
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 3 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 lb medium ground beef
  • 1 medium-sized potato, diced small
  • 1-1.5 cups of cold water
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley (or 1/2 cup fresh, finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme (or 1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup of sauerkraut
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp water

What you do:

  1. If needed, make your pastry.
  2. In a large frying pan, toast your spices, stirring regularly, over medium-low heat until fragrant.
  3. To the pan, add the oil and onions.
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until fragrant.
  5. Increase heat to medium and add the beef, breaking it down with a spoon until it’s well-combined with the spices, onions and garlic.
  6. Continue cooking until the beef has browned nicely.
  7. Add the potato, one cup of water and some salt to taste.
  8. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes until the potato is very tender. Add more water as necessary to keep it from burning and drying out.
  9. Mash about half of the potato pieces with the back of the spoon and stir in. This will thicken the mixture, but don’t let it dry out. Everything should be coated in a nice, but-not-too-runny gravy.
  10. Stir in the herbs, taste test and season accordingly. Set this aside to cool to room temperature.
  11. While the rest of the filling is cooling. strain your kraut through fine colander or Chinois to get rid of excess liquid.
  12. Once the filling is at room temp, preheat the oven to 350 and place the racks as close to the middle as possible while leaving enough room between them to not squish the knishes as you’ll be baking on both.
  13. Start assembling.
  14. While making these knishes, I discovered that the process of building them can be a deeply personal affair. When I set out, I had it in my head that I would make some very pretty knishes indeed. The first couple I made were, in fact, quite pretty, like so:
  15. After a whole two of those, the process became boooooooring, so I thought “oh! I can make ’em all rustic and galette-style!”
  16. And I did that:
  17. Lookit them! Rustic af! A little too rustic. Also not at all even close to the same size and, therefore, the same cooking time. Then I realized I could make them galette-style AND pretty AND the same size!
  18. I just divided the rest of the dough into equal balls, rolled them out into 6″-ish, roundish shapes and filled away:
  19. MUCH better. Approaching sane, even. 10/10 do recommend this method.
  20. So, when it comes time to make yours, divide your dough in half, then those halves in half, then those halves in half again, roll them into balls and roll ’em out. You’ll have 8 nicely-shaped knishes.
  21. Top each rolled-out pastry with 2 tbsp kraut, top that with some filling, leaving a good inch or so around it, then fold that edge over the filling, crimping in the excess as you go around.
  22. Beat the water into the beaten egg to make a wash.
  23. Place your filled knishes on parchment-line baking sheets and brush each with the egg wash.
  24. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until each knish is golden brown. Check on them about halfway through to ensure even browning and rotate pans as necessary to ensure said even browning.
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