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Posts Tagged ‘russia’

In Russian pelmeni looks like this: пельмени.

Visually it looks like this:

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The word itself may be completely bizarro, but as you can see, пельмени is nothing more than a dumpling.  The same type of dumplings that you have eaten many times at your Norwegian grandmothers house, or Swedish, or German, or Chinese (but not the delicious looking soup dumplings).

The contents of the dumplings are really basic: 1 part ground beef to 1 part ground pork and then spiced however you like!  I diced up about three cloves of garlic, poured in some Worcestershire sauce, some red pepper flakes, salt and pepper then mixed it all together by hand until everything was well incorporated.  After which, I placed it back in the refrigerator, covered to work on the pelmeni dough.

In our St. Petersburg cooking class, Chef Tsvetkov Oleg divided the tasks for the pelmeni making by sex: the men did all of the tasks pertaining to meat and mostly dough, whereas we women performed all of the vegetable prep work (for the solyanka).  We took a number of breaks throughout our class where Chef encouraged us to take shot after shot of vodka, which we did.  So when we returned to the kitchen to work with sharp knives I think I moved slower, not only from the alcohol, but because I was really mesmerized by the way in which Chef was making dumpling dough.  He took approximately three cups of all-purpose (I assume) flour, added a pinch of salt for flavor and then eyeballed an amount of oil, vegetable or olive perhaps.  He then just kneaded it in a plastic container until it became dough.

I wanted to take the same idea and use it at home.  Unfortunately, I was overcome by a simple noodle recipe (though I used All Purpose Flour instead) involving four eggs, went with it, and then ran it through my pasta machine to flatten the dough out to long sheets.

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Oddly, this cookie cutter did not suffice.  I had to use a drinking glass to cut out the dough and then at times a knife to cut it away and in to rounds.  This occurred – I believe – not due to the dough recipe, but due to the fact that I ran the dough through the pasta roller too many times, the dough got pretty tough (as evidenced later when I ate the meal).  Curses!  So beware…

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The rounds weren’t much larger than 2.5″ across.

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To seal the pelmeni, I did nothing more than use the tines of a fork; no water, egg wash or other goop to glue it together.   The super great thing about pelmeni is that it keeps so well in the freezer.  I made up a huge batch of these one afternoon, just in order to have on a rainy/snowy/lazy day, put them on a cookie sheet in a single layer, froze them and then bagged them up before I again threw them in the freezer, just like the Siberians.

On Russian Dinner Night, as we were starting to eat our solyanka, I pulled out a large pot to boil water in.  I now realize how lovely it would have been to put some chicken broth in as well.  Luckily I still have a gallon bag full of pelmeni in the freezer to try that idea out on.

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I boiled them for about 15-20 minutes – because there is frozen, raw meat inside, It is necessary to ensure it’s actually cooked through.  After pulling the dumplings out, I poured a bt of live oil on them as well as some salt and pepper.  After a quick stir, they were served!  Because the soup was so hearty, we needed only a few dumplings to satisfy our need for savory before we had dessert…

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On the dawn of the anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, David and I invited friends over for dinner as we hosted a Russian themed meal.  It has been a plan in my head since coming home from a visit to St. Petersburg this summer.  The plan taking place on the weekend before the anniversary of the fall of communism was merely a coincidence.  Despite as much, we started the night off in the only appropriate manner: drinking the last of our Russian Standard Vodka purchased in the motherland.

Most people only know about three things about Russia:

  1. Russians drink a. lot. of. vodka.
  2. Communism and its father Karl Marx
  3. Vladimir Putin’s pecs.

Despite my strange interest in all three areas, I will only answer to the first point.

Russians do drink a lot of vodka.  When you go to a decent restaurant, you will be served, without ordering, a shot of vodka and you are expected to drink it right away whether it is lunch or dinnertime.  If you are out to eat with a group of people, you will order a bottle of vodka for the table and everyone (who wants to) is given a shot glass to partake in the bottle.  It actually isn’t that difficult to go through an entire bottle in one sitting.

I needn’t explain the plusses of drinking vodka at lunch or dinner.  Instead, I will merely point out the other main reason why Russians drink so much vodka.  They live in RUSSIA.  Do you even realize how far north people live in this country and how cold it can get?   We weren’t even 60 degrees north of the equator while in St. Petersburg, it was summer and it was kind of chilly.  Think of the people who live 9 degrees further north and even further north than that – how else are they going to stay warm?

Lastly, vodka is the national drink and literally means “little water.”  However, it was not until 1893 when Dmitri Mendeleev (who you may remember from such places as the Periodic Table of Elements and Mendelevium) researched the properties of the spirit to determine that the optimum alcohol content for drinking should be 38% (it was later pushed to 40% for taxation purposes) and was written in to law.  A little more than a decade later, Mendeleev was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the Periodic Table of Elements.  Because of grudges and arguments conducted by a certain committee member, Mendeleev was not awarded the honor despite two nominations. To get back on point: Russians take their national drink seriously.

With that, it should come as no surprise then that the Russian vodka we drank was beyond exceptional.  It was impeccably pure and no matter how much I drank, I did not once encounter even a glimpse of a hangover.  The vodka we drank was just as good to take shots of as much as it was to sip.   Because of this, it was most unfortunate that the bottle of Duty Free Zarskaya vodka was confiscated in Germany.  :::Sigh:::

Since this visit, I have come to realize that we can and should own shot glasses and should not fear seeming like a Frat House.  Shot glasses do not make a frat house; light up beer signs do.

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