Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jewish Comfort Food

Kasha and Varnishkes also known as Kasha and Bowties

Kasha and Varnishkes
I don't make Kasha and Varnishkes often but it's one of my favorite traditional Jewish foods. There is a great basic recipe for them on Epicurious from Wolff's in New Jersey which is coincidentally (probably not really a coincidence) the brand of Kasha that I purchase for this dish. Kasha is really buckwheat groats but you will see we toast them with some egg to really release the flavor.

Growing up this was a side dish for lunch or dinner on Shabbat and therefore it was reheated as Jewish law does not allow for cooking during the sabbath. Many families utilize a blech, which is a thick sheet of steel that is placed on the stove top to keep the food warm throughout the day. The reason that I mention this is because of this method, the bow ties in the dish were always dried out and crunchy and I have grown to like it that way. Most recipes will stop with cooking it and the dish will remain soft. I always use the oven to crisp it up. I like those noodles browned.

Varnishkes aka Bow Tie Noodles
1 large sweet onion
1 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms
2 large eggs
1/2 box (approx 6.5 ounces) of Kasha
1 32 oz. box of chicken stock
1 cup of cooked farfalle (bow tie noodles)
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice onion into rounds (about 1/4 inch thick) and place in a covered skillet with some olive oil. Chop up mushrooms and add to pan on low/medium heat. My mushrooms were close to the point of no return, dying a slow death in the fridge, so I will not show you a picture of them! Check on these periodically to make sure that they cook and get soft but not burned. When onions are soft transfer to a plate.

Onions and Mushrooms slowly cooking

Beat the two eggs in a bowl and stir in kasha, making sure to coat all the kernels. Some of the mixture will clump. Don't worry about it as we will separate it when cooking. Place the kasha in the skillet and press it down with a spatula to cover the entire surface area at medium heat. We want to toast it without burning it. You will smell a fragrant nutty aroma. Flip and then begin to separate with your spatula.

Once it is toasted and separated, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the skillet's contents come to a boil, add the onions and mushrooms and reduce to low and cover. At this time cook the noodles in a separate pot according to instructions, leaning to the al dente side as we will be cooking some more.

Because I add a lot more liquid than called for it may take up to ten minutes to absorb. I don't worry about every last bit as we are going to finish this in the oven. Transfer the mixture into a Pyrex and stir in the drained noodles. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bow ties are browned.

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