Russian Pelmeni Dumplings with Beef, Spinach and Thyme


Russian Pelmeni Dumplings with Beef, Spinach and Thyme | Culinary Compost RecipesI first discovered this cuisine at Paul’s Pelmeni in Madison, Wisconsin on the UWM campus, and was blown away by how decadent and satisfying these little dumplings were.

This is a dish traditionally served in Russia, originating in the Ural mountains and other areas of Siberia. It is an incredibly popular comfort food made with a wide variety of ingredients. They can even be made as a dessert, using cheese and fruit. Similar to the Polish Pierogi and Slavic Varenyky, the dumplings are either boiled or fried and then served with butter, salt, pepper and sour cream. Other garnishes include chopped scallion, dill, vinegar, soy sauce — or as featured at Paul’s — their signature hot yellow Indian curry powder.

For convenience, a large batch can be made and then frozen for future meals.

You can make these individually by hand, using a two-inch circular dough cutter or by using a traditional Pelmeni form. This is an inexpensive kitchen tool and speeds up the preparation while providing consistent results. Enjoy —

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Dough~
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
Flour for dusting your work surface

For the Filling~
1 pound ground beef, or 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
3 tbs. milk
2 cups loose baby spinach, finely chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from the stem


PREPARATION:

To prepare the dough, combine the dry ingredients and beaten eggs in a mixing bowl or food processor with dough blade. Turn on the unit and then slowly add the buttermilk, stopping when the dough mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough and knead on a floured surface for two minutes. Shape into a ball and set aside covered in plastic wrap for one-half hour.

To prepare the meat filling, combine the ground beef (or mixture of beef and pork), salt, pepper, chopped spinach, minced onion, garlic and thyme in a work bowl. Add the milk and use two large forks to gently mix so the filling ingredients are uniformly distributed. DO NOT overwork the filling.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Starting with one piece, roll it out uniformly into a 15″ circle on a floured work surface. Flip it over and lightly dust the back with flour. Proceed to the next step by either cutting out circles or placing the dough on the Pelmeni form, floured side down. (This will ensure the dough and filling is pushed through the mold without sticking.)

Using a teaspoon melon ball scoop, add the beef mixture to the dough. If using the Pelmeni form, ensure that the filling is exactly over each hole in the form. Roll out the second dough ball using the same method and cover the Pelmeni form with the dough. Lightly dust your rolling pin and firmly press down on the Pelmeni form, working from the center outward. The individual dumplings should pop out the bottom. If they don’t, you can use an appropriately-sized pestle or your thumb to gently push them through.

If using cut-out dough circles, place the mixture in the center and then gently fold the dough over, forming a crescent. Gently crimp the edges to seal the dumplings.

For either method, arrange the dumplings set aside on lightly-floured parchment paper.

Heat three quarts of water until boiling with one teaspoon salt. Add the dumplings to the water in batches, ensuring you don’t overcrowd the pot.
When the dumplings float to the top, set your timer for five minutes. Then remove the dumplings with a spider strainer, drain and serve immediately with butter, sour cream and salt and pepper. Minced chives, scallion or dill may also be added as a garnish.

Yield: About 60 dumplings. Excess dough trimmings can be reformed and rolled or frozen to avoid waste.

Culinary Compost never endorses products for profit, and has received no monetary compensation for the content of this post.

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Penne Pasta in Parmesan-Garlic Sauce with Italian Parsley and Scallion


Penne Pasta in Parmesan-Garlic Sauce with Italian Parsley and Scallion | Culinary Compost RecipesI created this simple recipe as an alternative to purchasing high-priced store-bought pasta salad at a ridiculous $5.99/pound. You can use either penne or orecchiette pasta with fantastic results. The quantity shown here will set you back a whopping two dollars.

This is a cold pasta salad that should be chilled before serving so the flavors have time to set. Enjoy—

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups penne or orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente
1 pinch table salt
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup XV olive oil, plus more for mixing
1/4 cup finely-sliced scallion greens
2 tbs. minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed dry Italian basil
1 cup coarse-grated hard Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

Heat one quart of water in a saucepan with a pinch of table salt until boiling. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until just al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain and run under cold water in a colander to stop it from cooking. Shake off all the water and place in a large mixing bowl.

While preparing the pasta, heat 1/4 cup of XV olive oil in a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced raw garlic and sauté until fragrant. It should just start to turn a straw color. Remove from the heat and let stand to cool.

Add the rest of the ingredients in the mixing bowl and fold in with a spatula. When cooled, add the garlic and olive oil and mix to incorporate. You can add more olive oil if necessary based on preference. Correct the seasoning if needed and chill for 1 hour before serving.

Mike’s ProTip: Take the time and sauté the garlic. This step is critical. It mellows the acrid bite while infusing the olive oil, adding an incredible depth of flavor.

Serves 4.

El Sarape’s House Salsa


El Sarape's House Salsa Fresca | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my version of a popular salsa fresca served at El Sarape Mexican Restaurant, in Green Bay Wisconsin. Through experimentation, I’ve deduced they use two signature ingredients which puts their salsa in a class by itself. Control the heat by seeding the jalapenos — their version however, is quite spicy, which is how I like it.

On a side note, El Sarape is one of only two restaurants in the area serving authentic Mexican cooking. Their two-pound burritos are epic. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1 10.5 oz. package cherry tomatoes
2 large jalapeno peppers (core and seed them if you want to control the heat)
1 small white onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 green stalk onion (scallion) roots trimmed, with greens
1.5 cups loose-packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1.5 tsp. salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Reserve the salt for the last step*. Prep and wash everything and place in a food processor with the ground oregano. Pulse until a fine texture is achieved (you may need to scrape down the work bowl with a spatula.) Carefully remove the cutter blade and salt to taste. Mix well and let stand ten minutes before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.

*NOTE: Salt wreaks havoc on your food processor blade, dulling it very quickly. Add it last to avoid this issue.

Due to the large volume requirement, I suspect El Sarape’s salsa is processed in a blender. I prefer to present mine with a little more texture, using a fine-cut food processor pulse blade.

Upside-Down Meatloaf


Lodge Upside-Down Meatloaf | Culinary Compost RecipesThis recipe is from the Taste section of the Minneapolis Star newspaper, published in 1974. It is also featured in the book Lodge Cast-Iron Nation. It has always been a favorite of Eleanor Lodge Kellermann’s family, served with cornbread. Use a Lodge 9”x5” cast-iron loaf pan for best results.

People that know me know I’m a sucker for a good meatloaf recipe — and this is an excellent recipe. Enjoy—

INGREDIENTS:

Vegetable oil or Crisco shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
12 cup ketchup
1.5 pounds ground chuck
3/4 cup crushed saltine crackers (oyster or square)
1 small onion, grated
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Ground horseradish served on the side

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease a Lodge cast-iron loaf pan with Crisco or vegetable oil.

Press the brown sugar evenly in the bottom of the pan. Then add the ketchup. Ensure it is spread evenly. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and form into a loaf. Press firmly into the pan. Bake uncovered for 60-70 minutes.

When done, the internal temperature should read 160° F. Use an instant-read digital thermometer for accuracy. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes. Carefully turn the pan upside down on a serving platter.

Slice and serve with horseradish.  Serves 4-6

Mike’s Notes:
I used a medium-sized onion and there was a lot of liquid rendered out after it rested for ten minutes. I’m going to back off to 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk to compensate.  Also, I don’t think there’s nearly enough ground pepper; I would double it, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Finally, if you’re expecting a perfect presentation when turning the meatloaf out on a serving plate — don’t get your hopes up. This recipe is about down-home convenience, not aesthetics.

Hearty Country Wheat Bread


Hearty Country Wheat Bread | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe based on handwritten notes from my grandmother, who ran a lakefront resort in Northern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, her recipe didn’t specify actual ingredient measurements — in retrospect, she may have felt she didn’t need documentation due to the sheer volume of made-from-scratch bread she produced each week in that old maple-fired wood stove.

I have tried to recreate her recipe by working with measurements from King Arthur Flour’s website, but their recipes use four cups of flour which produce a much larger loaf (hey, they are in the business of selling flour.) As a result, my initial tests produced a very dense loaf that invariably fell flat.

After several failed attempts, I now have a very close rendition to her amazing bread. This loaf is excellent when served as toast, and has a wonderfully-textured crumb. Enjoy – this bread brings back so many great memories of my Northwoods childhood.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sifted King Arthur® white bread flour
1 cup sifted Hodgson Mill® whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup lukewarm filtered water
2 tsp. quick-rise baker’s yeast
2 tbs. honey
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. room-temperature salted butter
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules

DIRECTIONS:

Carefully sift and measure the flour, then level. Do not pack by tapping the measuring cup, or your loaf will be too dense. Combine with the other dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Turn on the processor and slowly add the warm water. When the ingredients start to pull away from the bowl surface, stop. Remove the dough and place on a very lightly-floured work surface and continue to knead for one minute. The dough should be very elastic and only slightly tacky. Form it into a round ball.

Place the dough ball in a greased 8-cup mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set your timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
When the dough has doubled, (it may take up to 2 hours) remove and very gently punch down. Form into a log that will fit a standard greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. (I highly recommend Lodge cast-iron for its even heat distribution; you’ll get a much better crust.) Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set aside again for 2 hours.

While the dough is in the second rise, preheat your oven to 350-degrees F.
After the second rise, the dough should expand to about 1 inch above the top of the loaf pan and spring back when touched (actual time may vary.)

Place the loaf pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, uncovered. An accurate instant-read thermometer should read 195-200-degrees F. in the center, when done. The crust should be an even golden-brown.

Remove promptly from the pan and allow the loaf to cool completely on a wire baker’s rack. Wrap in a plastic bag, or cut and serve for immediate use.

Makes 1 standard loaf.
For white bread: Substitute 1 cup white flour for the wheat flour.

Note:
You can place the dough in a non-heated oven with the oven light turned on. This will create a warm environment that aids in a more consistent rise.
This is very helpful in colder months when ambient room temperatures may affect the result.

Culinary Compost
 never endorses products for profit, and has received no monetary compensation for the content of this post.

Hearty Country Wheat Bread | Culinary Compost Recipes

Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak


Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak
This is a recipe adapted from Vietnamese chef Andrea Nguyen. I have always loved authentic pho, but have never attempted to make it because of the time and hassle in creating a proper soup stock from boiled beef bones. For this recipe, I improvised and added a bit of bacon fat to try to recreate that savory, slow-cooked flavor. It’s not perfect, but very close and a huge time-saver served as a weeknight meal.

A note on the fish sauce – some people love it, but you have to be pretty ballsy to throw a quarter-cup of the stuff in your soup pot, as called for in Andrea’s recipe. Knowing how intense the flavor is, I backed off to only three tablespoons and found it still borderline overpowering. I have edited my recipe to include only two tablespoons. Try it — you can always add more; it’s an authentic and necessary component of this dish.

My special Asian-marinated sliced flank steak takes center stage. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:

32 oz. store-bought beef stock
3 cups hot water
2 tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. rendered bacon fat
1″ chunk ginger root, peeled, charred and cut into discs
1 large, whole shallot, peeled and sectioned, charred, then cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tbs. whole dry coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
6 whole dry cloves
2 tsp. powdered beef base
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
3 large green scallion, trimmed and cut at a bias into 1″ planks
2 fresh green chilis; Thai or semi-hot, seeded and sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 handfuls fresh Thai queen basil
Lime wedges for garnish
1 brick Three Sisters Vietnamese vermicelli noodles (enough for two or three large, single portions. There are 6 bricks in a two-pound package.)

For the Grilled Steak~
1/2 lb. Black Angus flank steak, tenderized with a needle press
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed through a press
2 heaping tbs. Laoganma Black Bean Chili Sauce
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, to taste


DIRECTIONS:

About 12 hours prior to cooking, marinate the flank steak. Hit it generously with a needle tenderizer on both sides. Place in a zip-lock bag with 2 heaping tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce, 2 tbs. lime juice and 4 large cloves garlic, crushed in a press. Season with a bit of Kosher salt, seal tightly and ensure all surfaces of the meat are covered. Refrigerate, rotating ocassionally.

Charring the shallot and ginger: Place in a heavy cast-iron pot or fry pan (not enameled) and evenly char with a propane torch. Remove and set the shallot and ginger aside to cool. Then slice.

Preparing the soup stock: Set a heavy, cast-iron or enameled iron pot over medium-low heat and add the coriander seed. Stir until it just starts to toast, then add the bacon fat, sliced shallot and ginger. Continue stirring until slightly browned. Add the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and beef stock. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Add the hot water, fish sauce, beef base and brown sugar. Cook at a rolling simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and carefully strain out the solids in a colander. Discard the solids and return the stock back to the pot.

Preparing the flank steak: Time an outdoor charcoal fire so the steak will be done with the stock. Level the coals and place the steak over direct heat and sear about three minutes per side, until charred but medium rare. Remove and let rest for five minutes. Cut into 1/4″ strips at a bias, across the grain so it remains tender. Reserve covered.

Prepare the rice vermicelli according to package directions, boiling for about 7-8 minutes. Drain off the water and divide the noodles between bowls. The noodles should also be timed so they are done when the stock is done.

Pour a generous amount of stock over each bowl of noodles and top with the seared flank steak, green onion, Thai basil, green chili and cilantro. Squeeze in a bit of lime juice and serve immediately with hot chili garlic sauce, Sriracha and soy sauce on the side.

Serves 2-3. Chopsticks and Asian soup spoons are a must with this recipe.

NOTE: If the steak is a bit undercooked and bloody when slicing, do not worry. Adding the hot stock over the top will cook it through in less than a minute.

Fresh garden Thai queen basil and chilis.

Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic Sauce


Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic SauceThis is a recipe loosely based on one by Fuchsia Dunlop, from her book Every Grain of Rice. The sauce represented here is intensely dark, rich and fragrant; elevated by the Laoganma black bean chili oil.  Look for it in large Asian markets – it is an amazing product. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 oz. ground pork with a decent amount of fat
1” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1” planks
handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 large red onion, cut in wedges
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1 large scallion, trimmed and cut in 2” sections at a bias

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 heaping tbs. Laoganma® Chili Oil with Black Bean
1/2 tsp. Lee Kum Kee® Black Bean Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. Gold Plum® Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns*, toasted in a mortar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1 cup Thai Jasmine rice
2 tbs. canola oil, divided

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut, measure and prepare all ingredients so you have them ready, and at hand.
Prepare the sauce by adding everything except the Laoganma chili oil and sesame oil to a small mixing bowl. Mix well.

Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and swirl the wok to coat. Add the ground pork and stir-fry with a long-handled Chinese spatula until no longer pink and the surface starts to brown. Drain and set the pork aside. Discard the fat from the wok.

Add the remaining canola oil to the wok and stir to coat. Add the Laoganma chili oil, the ginger and garlic. Quickly stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, carrot and snow peas. Stir-fry until crisp-tender and the surfaces start to char. Add the sauce mixture and stir, scraping to deglaze the wok. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the pork back to the wok.

Add the chopped scallion and stir for about a minute until it is just wilted. Add the sesame oil. Remove the wok from the heat and serve with jasmine rice.

To prepare the rice:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2.5 quart heavy stock pot. Add the jasmine rice and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced and the surface starts to show pock marks. Cover and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff and serve. Time the rice so it is done when you are done with the stir-fry.

Serves 2.

*A note on the Szechuan peppercorns: These may be hard to find, but they add such a unique flavor to this dish. They are not true peppercorns, but actually the seed pods from the Asian prickly ash shrub. Toast one level teaspoon in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat until they just start to smell fragrant. Shake them occasionally so they don’t scorch. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a mortar. Lightly grind by hand until the pods are crushed. Discard the hard black seeds, as they are very gritty. Run through a fine mesh screen and discard the larger pieces. Keep the fine powder in a small airtight spice jar stored in your fridge. It will last about a week before the flavor starts to fade. These peppercorns produce a numbing sensation on your tongue, which is caused by the active compound hydroxy alpha sanshool. The spice is widely used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Northern India.