Years ago, when my then boyfriend first visited my home in San Francisco from Atlanta, he took one look at the houses jam packed next to each other and asked, incredulously,
“Wait, where do the kids play?”
Why, in the street, of course. Or more accurately, on the sidewalk. We played hopscotch-drawn-in-chalk on the sidewalk. We played handball on the sidewalk. We skateboarded down 10th Avenue on the sidewalk.
The summer I was ten I rode my bike—on the sidewalk—almost daily to my friend Kathy’s house. In the city fog we’d hang out in her room playing Barbies and reading comic books—she liked Archie and I liked Richie Rich. We did venture out though, to Clement Street. We’d walk—on the sidewalk–to the bowling alley on 8th and Clement. The bowling alley held two major attractions, neither of which involved a bowling ball.
- they had orange soda in a glass bottle for 8 cents out of the soda machine. Right next to the cigarette machine.
- They had a pay phone—we’d part with a precious dime!—and call P-O-P-C-O-R-N, just so we could push the buttons on the push button phone.
Around the corner from the bowling alley was a Russian Deli. They had fried piroshky tempting us in the window, and on rare occasion we would splurge and buy one. They were puffy fried bread filled with savory ground beef, a little greasy, and to my memory more exciting than delicious to eat.
So in preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, early this morning I decided to make piroshky.
The idea of biting into soft chewy bread around a savory filling sounded good. In my not very exhaustive research into piroshky recipes, I discovered that baking them is not heretical, thus sparing me from the dreaded deep-frying. Since my vegetarian daughter is home from 5 months abroad (we welcomed her home with a giant chalk drawing on the sidewalk), I decided to go with the traditional potato, onion, and cabbage filling. Peasant food: it’s a good thing.
I made up this recipe, modifying a dinner roll recipe for the dough.
1 packet (3 tsp) yeast
¼ cup warm water + 2 tsp sugar
5 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup (half stick) butter
Mix yeast, warm water, and sugar in a bowl and let sit till foamy.
Heat milk and butter in small saucepan till butter is melted. Let cool to lukewarm. Mix 4 cups flour, salt, and sugar. I used my kitchenaid mixer. Add milk mixture, yeast mixture, and eggs and mix with paddle. Switch to dough hook and add additional flour, ½ cup at a time until the dough comes together and is not sticky. If still sticky add a bit more flour; the dough should not stick to your fingers when you handle it. Knead with dough hook for a couple minutes, then form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place 1 ½-2 hours, till doubled in bulk. The warm place in my kitchen this morning was on top of the coffee maker.
Today’s piroshky filling was based on the following agenda:
- Amy is a vegetarian
- Stay true, sort of, to Russian recipes and flavorings. Salt. Pepper. Not much else. After the fact I looked it up and could have added parsley, dill, tarragon.
- Clean out the fridge.
2 large onions, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 yukon gold potato, peeled and chunked
1 small head of Napa cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
salt and pepper, a generous pinch of sage
a little wine
a little whine
Now take the last ingredient: can I just tell you that vegetarian fillings are MORE WORK and usually LESS FLAVOR? That is all.
Place the onions in a large deep frying pan. I like my big All Clad wide bottomed pan. Add a little oil and fry them up, season with salt and pepper, add a little wine. Once the onions are wilted and starting to turn brown, turn heat to low, even as low as sim, and cook for 40 minutes, stirring ever so often, so that they are lovely and caramelized and creamy and sweet.
In a separate pot, boil the carrot till fork tender. Drain and mash. In a separate pot, boil the potato till fork tender. Drain and mash, then mix the mashed carrot in. I do not recommend mashing them together because the carrot is much firmer and you may over mash the potato.
While your carrot and potato are cooking, stir fry the cabbage on high heat. If the cabbage is still firm and starting to turn brown, turn to medium low, cover, and let cook 5-10 minutes longer till soft.
Mix all the veg together and season liberally with salt and pepper. I added a little sage. Had I looked it up I would have added parsley and dill. The flavor seemed pretty good, what with the caramelized onions and all.
At this point I was DYING to add some soy sauce/fish sauce, ginger, wasabi, or kochujang. ANYTHING–to impart a little UMAMI zip! [Refrain. Endure. FORBEARANCE.]
How to wrap piroshky:
The piroshky of my childhood were minion-shaped. I decided to experiment and made two shapes. The second was a classic chinese dumpling with pleats on both sides that I had not done before.
The first was happenstance; because this was based on my crescent roll recipe, I rolled out ¼ of the dough into a circle and cut it into 8 wedges like I do with crescent rolls. I then realized I had to make a dumpling, so this is what I came up with.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Let rise piroshky rise 20 minutes
Brush with egg wash.
Bake at 400 for 13 minutes, then because the sides were not golden brown, I turned the oven to convection for 3 more minutes. The sides browned beautifully.
Aren’t these gorgeous?
My impression: these are more beautiful than delicious. Plain, they are “horse horse tiger tiger” (“mamahuhu” in Chinese, look it up), with very good texture and flavor of the bread. The filling texture was good, and they tasted okay, but HELLO, it was seasoned only with salt and pepper and really lacked any interesting flavor.
Served with that famous Russian condiment, Thai chili sauce, they’re good enough to make you dance. In the street. Or on the sidewalk.
And that boyfriend who was so concerned about the kids?
He liked his better with chili sauce too, and shared it with aforementioned vagabond daughter.