Monday, March 5, 2012

The Full Court Press of Knishes

J. Lin not pictured.
Scheming, scheming, bubble & boil! Mid-week, I did a full-court knish press to present a full plate to a fellow traveller on the path of starting an updated modern Jewish-inspired food product. In the house was none other than one of my original inspirations to get knishy with it, Danny Macaroon, of, ummm, Danny Macaroons! (Noah Knish just doesn't have the same ring to it.) I caught sight of a Danny Macaroon table at Smorgasburg last summer, a week before I attended Laura Silver's knish lecture, and it all just clicked.  Later in the summer, I introduced myself to Danny, and this that and the other, he's comin' to dinner!

I spent a day in the kitchen while looking after the baby, had a baby sitter come in the afternoon -- thank goodness, because I was getting nothing done. Having to run out because you discovered that your potatoes were too close to the oven and sprouted over night didn't help with the schedule.

Full court press: one day, two different kinds of dough, 2 different cooking methods, nine different fillings. Here is a run down of what I made, with notes on production and outcome....

Square circled
  • Potato: Kinda like how vanilla ice cream custard is a base for many many other flavors of ice cream, the potato filling is great on it's own, but is also used as a base for the spinach, sweet potato and broc-ched, as well as a binder for the kasha. This batch came out well, but I went a little too far with the salt, brought it right up to the edge of big flavor/too salty. For the other knishes that took it in, I skipped adding more salt.
  • Fried Potato: Second time I've whipped these up, again surprised how good they are. 400 degree peanut oil, same filling and dough as the baked, just square and contained. Plop in the square in, wait until it looks nice and golden & serve. Talking to Danny Mac, I realized how hard these will be to sell in any setting other than where it is fried to order. Damn my American palate, this is good! 
  • Spinach - Roasted Garlic: Four heads of garlic roasted in the oven, wrapped in foil and hit with oil and salt. Only gave it an hour, tasted good but a bit too firm, had to run them through the garlic press. Did about a 3/4 spinach to 1/4 potato mix as an experiment and...yup, 50/50 is the right way to go. This was the only knish Danny Mac didn't finish, said he wasn't a huge garlic fan. On one hand, if the garlic was mushier, it would have blended in better, lesson learned. Then again, Danny has macaroons for brains, so what the heck does he know?!
The Children's Champion
  • Broccoli-Cheddar: Working only with what was on hand, I didn't have as much broc as I'd like so I chopped in finer to spread it. (Once concept taught in c-school: the more surface area you give an ingredient, the more able it is to contact the taste buds and give a bigger flavor.)  Hmmm - still needs more broc BUT I do like the texture and mouthfeel of small bits of broc. I imagine next time when I up the broc amount, the flavor (amplified by the fat of the cheese) will step up a level. Of note, this seems to be the only knish my toddler seems to go gaga for.
Yam, Bam, Thank You Maam!
  • Sweet Potato: I don't like sweet potatoes, they have a weird texture and are too damn sweet to be a potato. 
Oh Sweet P, how did I ever doubt you?!
However, when mixed 50/50 with the plain potato mix, it works to give a nice light orange color, it becomes extra silky instead of loose, and the note of sweet is just right. I'm happy.
    Ka$ha is no second rate Lady KnaKna. -sigh- I'm sorry.
    • Kasha: There is a reason why you hit your freshly toasted kasha with boiling water and not cold water: if you hit it with cold then bring it up to heat, you will have very mushy kasha - instead of soft individual grains, you will have an undifferentiated gray mass that looks like mashed potatoes that have been used, abused and left for dead. I tossed the first pot and started over, but it made me think - some day, I may have a use for this, a trick where I can subtly add kasha flavor to something without the granular texture...
    • Brisket: Oy. Oy. What the what! I just made brisket knishes for the first time a few weeks ago, and I held aside a cup of my last brisket in the freezer for this. However, instead of going to the nice market, I sourced my tripe from a small super market close by. It read "Canadian-previously frozen" and was a half section of a roll of tripe, unlike last tripe I used, which was fresh and NY State raised. So as with before, I boiled the hell out of it for about 3 ours. Last time, no issues, it came out looking a little bit smaller but ready for grinding. THIS time, after 10 minutes, a weird bleachy ammonia smell took over my kitchen for an hour, and when I checked it 3 hours later, it had disappeared!! Dissolved into the water, leaving behind a few threads of white snotty-looking slime!!! Aigh dios mio!!! So suffice to say, these brisket knishes went with out the softening power of nice bouncy tripe, and like a meat perogie in a Slavic diner in the East Village in the early 80s, were a bit heavy. I mixed it 50/50 with kasha, which flavor wise was the right deal, but it was just a bit leaden. Perhaps I could have thrown a few eggs in there. Next time I'm gonna get the right tripe.
    Oatmeal  Hashbrown Knish: it's what's for breakfast
    • Hash Brown-Oatmeal: First time experiment, needs work but the concept is solid. Start with some left over oatmeal. Not some lame quick cooking rolled faff, but proper hardcore steel cut Irish oats. No half-oatin'! I prepare my breakfast oatmeal with brown sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. It keeps it real up in the hizzy. It makes me speak 1990s ebonics, yo. Any way, like kasha, this grain needs a potato counter point. So instead of going to the potato knish mix bowl, I cubed a potato and cooked it in butter.
    MC Potato Hash lockin' it down
    Then the potatoes met the oatmeal and was joined by two other breakfast elements: some egg and some maple syrup....
    Maple sizzyrup!
    In the end, not particularly good but has potential. I liked the syrup's flavor, the whole thing is sweet and savory, and the browning of the potatoes gave a nice toasty flavor that complimented the oatmeal. In the future, the potatoes will be cubed smaller, and in addition to syrup, all the add ins of the oatmeal (brown sugar, vanilla, etc) will be amped up. Also, lose the butter and use oil or shortening, to keep it in a kosher stylee....

    • Chocolate Hazelnut: Due to time constraints, rather than continue to experiment with hazelnut paste and dutched cocoa, I reverted back to an earlier recipe from the Knishening, that involved Nutella. The filling hit it's mark, and Danny Macaroon seemed to really like it (he is a man with a professional sweet tooth, after all) but I'm still not happy with it's form factor.
    A carpenter's dream
    Cooking it loaf style on a flat sheet just makes it go too flat, and to keep it at a reasonable portion, it looks too much like a cookie. I want knishes! I think I just need to find some long, thin loaf pans or something.
     So there ya go. If your still reading this, you must really care! (Or at least really like ebonics-based jokes!)  Since you've come this far, a note on KnisheryNYC's future...

    As I hinted at earlier in the post, I got NOTHING done while having a 3 month old baby underfoot. I've come to the realization from this day of cooking that my plans for the season are overly optimistic, if I don't want to semi-abandon my young family. I was thinking a few tables every weekend, but now I think one or two tables this season is more likely. In addition, I have 2 or 3 vendors in mind who expressed interest in carrying my knishes in their shops, which means anyone can go get 'em anytime -- expect some announcements in the next few months. Around that time, I'll start offering special orders to the public. In the begining, it'll be limited to the 5 boros, but once I get the packaging down, shipping will be offered to. 

    Thanks for everyone's enthusiasm and support so far! I hope to get a knish in yo mouf sooner than later. F'shizzle!



    Want to see this child boop a raw knish? Here ya go...
    (all booped knishes were promptly unbooped then baked in a 400 degree oven to prevent boopalism)

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