Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Kasha Varnishkes

Here's a traditional eastern European Jewish dish, usually served as a side dish. It would be great with roast chicken, whole or pieces (from which you could glean your chicken fat) or with fish, but I have to say that I tend to regard dishes that require three pots as the main event. Certainly, it fills that role very nicely, with a blend of flavours and textures.

Buckwheat groats (often called kasha once toasted) can be a nasty mush if not cooked properly. There are 4 different things you can do to prevent this: coat them in egg before cooking, toast them, add them only to rapidly boiling water to cook, then let them rest after cooking for about 10 minutes. This recipe traditionally uses all 4 techniques, but I'm not crazy about the egg - it always ends up grossly overcooked to my taste - and the other 3 methods do the trick perfectly well if care is taken. If you want, though, you can coat the buckwheat in a beaten egg before starting. It won't take 10 minutes to toast in that case, I don't think.

Chicken fat is traditional, and adds good flavour, always providing you have good chicken. You can render it in advance, if you have enough. I usually don't, so I just take the raw chicken fat bits which I am always at pains to remove from chicken I am cooking (inconsistent, I know) and chop them finely. You could store them in the freezer between times if you like. Render them in the skillet for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients to be cooked. Vegetable oil works, though.

Check out Presto Pasta Nights for more great pasta.

3 to 6 servings
40 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Kasha Varnishkes
1 cup buckwheat groats
2 to 3 tablespoons chicken or turkey fat, or sunflower seed oil
150 to 200 grams bow-tie pasta (farfalle) OR egg noodles
1 medium onion
3 shallots
6 to 8 button mushrooms
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
salt & pepper

Rinse the buckwheat groats, and drain them well. Heat 1 tablespoon or so of chicken fat or oil in a medium-large skillet.

When the fat is hot, add the buckwheat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the grains are well toasted and darkened but not burnt. Meanwhile, put 2 cups of water with 1/4 teaspoon salt on to boil in a fairly large pot after the kasha has cooked for about 5 minutes.

Add the kasha to the boiling water - be careful! the water will foam up amazingly; this is why you use a fairly large pot - and cover it, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the kasha is tender. Set the skillet aside, but don't clean it. You will be using it again.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables by peeling and slicing the onion and shallots, slicing the mushrooms, and chopping the cabbage. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Don't acutally start the pasta until the kasha is done, because the kasha should rest for about 10 minutes before being mixed with the pasta and vegetables.

While the pasta cooks, heat the remaining fat or oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the shallots and mushrooms and continue cooking for another 5 to 8 minutes, stirring regularly. They should be very soft and golden-brown.

When the pasta has 3 or 4 minutes more to cook, add the finely chopped cabbage to it.

Drain the pasta and cabbage, and toss them with the saut├ęd vegetables and the kasha. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Ruth Daniels said...

A dish that really takes me back to my mother and grandmother's kitchens. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Joanne said...

I have never heard of this but it looks like pretty good comfort food to me!

Katie's blog said...

What a wonderful looking dish! Thanks for sharing with PPN!!

Ferdzy said...

I suspected this might look very familiar to you, Ruth.

It is great comfort food and I'm very happy when I have something to contribute to PPN.

Anonymous said...

I love this dish, I used to make it lots when mushrooms were cheaper...sigh. Like the cabbage addition actually, thanks for sharing!