Because yesterday was not only Thanksgiving but the start of Hanukkah, per my usual style, around midnight on Thanksgiving-eve, I had an epiphany to change what to bring to our friends’ houses for Thanksgiving dinner. Knishes! I had heard on NPR that there is a nationwide Knish shortage because of a factory fire in NY, which prompted me to ask, what is a kah-nish and can’t we just make them ourselves? (And ever the entrepreneur, to scheme: if I can make a pretty good homemade knish, maybe these can be my holiday cash cow. Currently writing business plan for Sealed With a Knish, Hammer Holiday knish mail-order service company). Mine are healthy knishes, not deep fried, but baked in olive oil.
I’m not Jewish, but ever since I played Hodel in Fiddler on Roof in seventh grade, everyone seems to think I am– with the name Rachel Hammer, my aquiline nose, curly dark hair, blue eyes, and loud personality. So I figured I might as well learn to play the part a little better. Anyone reading this from the Jewish community will smell the shiksa on me. But then they will smell the pastrami and gruyere goodness and bless me for my rescue efforts in the knish shortage of 2013. Mazel tov.
Potato, Pastrami and Gruyere Knish
Adapted from Cook’s Country Winter 2013
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup milk (or water)
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 onions, peeled and diced small
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
8 ounces deli Pastrami, chopped
2 tbsp deli mustard
1 tsp caraway seeds, crushed
½ tsp dried dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Olive oil, about ½ cup
Make dough: Stir together your dry ingredients in the bottom of a medium/large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and milk or water. Pour it over the dry ingredients and stir them to combine. On a floured surface, knead the dough smooth. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set it aside for an hour (or in the fridge, up to 3 days) until needed. Just be sure to cool it to room temperature before rolling it out.
Meanwhile, prepare filling: Put potatoes into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes can be pierced easily with a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil and add onions and reduce to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until deeply caramelized, which will take about 45 minutes. Transfer to bowl with potatoes and mash together until almost smooth. Add grated cheese, pastrami, dill, caraway, and mustard. Stir in salt and many grinds of black pepper and set the filling aside to cool. You can let this cool, if covered in the refrigerator, for 24 hours.
When you are ready to assemble the knish: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, brush 2 tablespoons of oil over the paper, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the dough in half. While working with one, keep the other lump covered. On a well-floured surface, roll the first half of the dough into a very thin sheet, roughly in the shape of a 1-foot square-ish.
Roll the filling up in the dough like you were rolling a cigarette, not that you would know how to do that, ahem. A tiny amount of slack will keep the dough from opening in the oven. Brush the dough with oil as your roll.
Keep rolling until the log has been wrapped twice in dough. Trim any unrolled length and add it to the second half of the dough; it can be used again. Repeat the process with the second half of your dough and second half of filling.
Pinch one of the ends of each segment together to form a sealed knish base. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the knish a bit into a squat shape and from here, you can take one of two approaches to the top: You can pinch together the tops as you did the bottom to seal them; indenting them with a small dimple will help keep them from opening in the oven. You can gently press the dough over the filling but leave it mostly open, in a rosette style, which I think looks nice.
Bake knish: Arrange knish on prepared baking sheet. Whisk egg yolk and water together to form a glaze and brush it over the knish dough. Bake knish for about 45 minutes, rotating your tray if needed for them to bake into an even golden brown color. Great for appetizers. And, for breakfast, I say having reheated these this morning to serve with eggs and coffee. Yum!
This recipe is dedicated to all the families we spent our orphan Thanksgiving with yesterday. Bryan and Anita, Eric and Katie, Chris and Nicole—y’all are now officially family. I also need to express my deep thanksgiving for the incredible, unrelentingly can-do attitude of my husband Karl-Peter. KP, as usual, got wrapped into my manic agenda and after midnight went to the grocery store for me to get gruyere cheese while I boiled and peeled potatoes with Frank Sinatra to kick off my all-night knish project. KP is the best first assist anyone could ever ask for. I thank my inner-Yente for him everyday.