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New Year’s Eve: Aspic (kholodets)

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Yummy, yummy, yummy!  holodec_polza_i_vredAspic is a very distinctive Russian dish, and I highly recommend it.

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Tefteli (Russian Meatballs)

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tefteliRussian meatballs incorporate rice and are served without a side dish.

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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 Hašek, 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.

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