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Cepelinai (Stuffed Potato Dumplings) with Creamy Horseradish Sauce.

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Cepelinai“Zeppelins” are a Lithuanian specialty (not technically Russian, so sue me). Boiled dumplings are, in general, extremely popular in Central European cuisines. Jaroslav HaĊĦek, a celebrated Czech writer of satire, was a great aficionado, and mentioned a tremendous variety of dumplings in his unfinished novel “The Good Soldier Svejk”. The roster of dumplings made in this region is so great, this variety of food is hard to define, except as something boiled made from something starchy and incorporating bacon at some point. The Lithuanian cepelinai are giant potato dumplings filled with pork and dressed with either sour cream or some kind of a cream-based sauce and usually garnished with crumbled bacon. I chose to make a creamy horseradish sauce, whose sharpness complements potato dumplings particularly well, in my opinion.

Before we begin, there are a couple of things that make boiled potato dumplings tricky. First, grated potatoes tend to turn bluish-gray when boiled, so I add lemon juice to improve the color. Second, the only binding agent is the potatoes’ own starch and a small amount of starch added to the cooking liquid. (No self-respecting cook will “cheat” by adding flour or more starch to the dumpling mix.) For this reason, it’s important to use a starchy variety of potatoes, such as russets.

As you can see from the recipe, this is a labor-intensive dish, but you can make the task easier by preparing the pork filling and the sauce a day ahead. For the sauce, use fresh horseradish. Canned horseradish is usually cut with vinegar, and would make the sauce far too acidic.

And now, without further ado: More

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Roast Garlic And Navy Bean Soup

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Soup This is a simple, but comforting and very “garlicky” soup, perfect for cool weather.

3 heads garlic
1 cup dry navy beans
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 quarts vegetable stock (or, alternatively, chicken stock)
1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp minced dill
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the navy beans thoroughly, then soak in cool water for 8 hours or overnight. When the soaking begins, the water should cover the beans by about 2 inches.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice each garlic head in half cross-wise without peeling. Place the halves sliced side down into an ovenproof dish and add half of the oil. Roast the garlic for about 45 minutes, then let cool to room temperature. Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic from their peelings (they should come out easily), discard the peelings, and puree or mash the garlic together with the oil in which it was roasted.

3. Drain the soaked beans. Bring vegetable stock to a boil and add the beans. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer gently for 1.5 hours.

4. Heat the remainder of the oil in a skillet and saute the onions until golden-brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat, sprinkle the onion with flour and cook, stirring, until a yellowish roux forms. (Add a little more oil if necessary.) Gradually stir approximately 1 cup of vegetable stock into the roux (never ever EVER add roux to liquid), until a thick sauce forms, then add the sauce with the onions to the beans.

5. Stir the garlic paste into the soup, adjust the seasonings, and let simmer, covered, for 15 more minutes.

6. Stir in the dill and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

7. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.