KreplachA Special Treat for the Holidays
Rosalind Joffe z"l and Martha Liberman z"l and Jamie Stolper
As I was growing up, one of my grandmother's specialties was a meat-filled kreplach which she made in great batches every year before the high holidays. We would eat some on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and then freeze the rest in small plastic bags and bring them out on special occasions throughout the year. These were like gold in our family -- they were counted out carefully, watched over constantly once put on one's plate (lest a table neighbor get mischievous), and bartered for in creative ways. In later years, after I was married, my grandmother would come to my house to make the kreplach. (One brazen, but still-loved, sibling was caught more than once raiding my freezer for the valuable packages.) I have precious videotape of Grandma rolling out the handmade dough, placing the meat filling onto the cut up pieces, and pinching the edges together before dropping into the boiling water. I have no written recipe from her, however, as she never used one -- everything was done by look or feel or taste. She measured water into the dough in the cracked eggshells and she sniffed the meat filling to see if there was the right amount of onion.
After I was married, I discovered that kreplach were also a specialty of my husband's grandmother. Nana's kreplach looked and tasted different, but were equally treasured in her family and I came to love them also. Nana's kreplach were smaller and had rounded edges, while Grandma's were larger triangles with pointed edges. Nana's dough was thicker, but the filling was made with cooked flanken or brisket; Grandma's dough was thinner and filled with hamburger meat. Nana's were served in chicken soup or pan-fried in oil or margarine, while Grandma's were either served in soup or broiled gently with a shmear of chicken fat.
After both our grandmothers passed away, my husband David and I finally decided it was time to make our own kreplach. In honor and memory of our two grandmothers, we make a version that is a combination of both of their recipes, and includes a short cut or two. Making kreplach the old-fashioned way all in one session is a time-consuming activity, taking hours to produce these treasured morsels that are consumed in a flash. We always marvel at how our elderly grandmothers managed to make these themselves, in small kitchens without the modern conveniences that we have today. DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY THE LENGTH OF THIS RECIPE. There are many steps, but they are not difficult, and they don't have to be done all at one time. You can also halve the recipe and, although you'll get only about 50 kreplach, it will take much less time and labor.
We serve kreplach only to our most special guests, and hope that they taste the love and history that goes into each one.
For the Dough:
I use 2 packages of store-bought wonton wrappers that I buy in the frozen food section at my kosher market. I find these to be the thickness I like and it is so much quicker than making your own dough. If you prefer homemade dough, you can easily find a recipe in almost any Jewish cookbook.
For the Meat Filling:
2 1/2 pounds of chuck or flanken6 medium onions1 cup waterchicken fat or vegetable oil
Put the meat, 4 onions, and water in a pressure cooker and cook according to instructions for 30 minutes. Alternately, you can cook the meat in the oven, like a brisket, for several hours. Remove the meat and onions and cool, but save the liquid.
Instead of making the meat filling from scratch, you can use 5 cups ground leftover brisket. This must be the savory, not sweet, type, made with onions.
Slice the remaining 2 onions and saute in 1 tablespoon chicken fat or oil until brown. Trim the meat of any large sections of fat or gristle. Grind the meat and onions together in a food grinder or a food processor. (In a food processor, do it in several batches and don't overprocess or it will be too pasty.) Add salt and pepper to taste, and cooking liquid as necessary. Set aside.
The filling may be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator an hour or so before using to fill the kreplach, in order to soften. You may also make the filling and freeze it until ready to use, but then you may not freeze the finished kreplach.
[Most cookbook recipes call for hamburger meat instead of flanken for the filling. If you go this route, you'll need about 2 pounds of chopped meat, 2 eggs, lots of onions, and salt and pepper. Check any Jewish cookbook for a recipe.]
To Assemble the Kreplach:
Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
Cut the dough into 3-inch by 3-inch squares. (If using homemade dough, first roll out as thin as possible on a lightly floured surface.) Use 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons filling in each square, placing slightly off-center. Fold over diagonally, bringing one point to meet the opposite point to make a triangle. Pinch the edges together firmly to seal tightly. If the edges don't stay securely shut, first dab some water along the edges of the square, then pinch closed. If you like your kreplach shaped as rings, bring the two longer points of the triangle together and press them firmly to stick.
Drop 15-20 kreplach at a time into the boiling water. After about 1 minute, stir gently with a slotted spoon so that all the kreplach separate and rise. Cook, boiling gently, for about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a rack to drain or to a greased (preferably with chicken fat) cookie sheet.
At this point you may either cool and refrigerate or freeze the boiled kreplach, or go on to the step below. These boiled kreplach may be dropped in hot soup to serve or after defrosting you may also continue with the step below.
Turn on the broiler in your oven and place a rack several inches from the heat. Lightly brush melted chicken fat or margarine on the kreplach and broil briefly until the dough looks dry or just begins to turn golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the kreplach, baste lightly with chicken fat or margarine, and broil gently on the second side. Serve the kreplach now in soup or on a plate, or let cool.
At this point I freeze the kreplach on different cookie sheets, separated by sheets of waxed paper and covered with foil. The next day I put the kreplach in freezer bags. When I want to serve them, I defrost, place them on cookie sheets again, one layer at a time, shmear again with a little bit of melted chicken fat, and broil (or cook in a convection oven at 350 degrees) until hot and browned. I pass the kreplach around on a platter along with the chicken soup course.
This recipe makes about 96 (8 dozen) kreplach.