I’m the type of person who will order an entree at a restaurant just because it comes with mashed potatoes, but on Thanksgiving, the simple side dish has no place on my family’s table. Instead, our traditional holiday potato is the knish, an Eastern European / Jewish snack food somewhat similar to the Indian samosa or the Latin empanada. Imagine a mound of fluffy potatoes mixed with browned onions and stuffed inside a shell of crisp-tender dough. Yeah, you’d ditch your plain ol’ mashers, too, if you had these baking in your oven.
Though knishes can be filled with almost anything — meat, veggies, cheese — the most satisfying variation I’ve had is the potato, and luckily, they’re easy to make, provided you have two spare evenings at your disposal. The dough needs to sit at least overnight in the refrigerator and up to one week, so you can mix up a batch when you start your Thanksgiving preparations early next week and then leave it until you’re ready to mash the potatoes and finish the knishes. You can also make the knishes ahead of time and freeze them either before or after baking. You’ll want to serve them steaming hot, though, so be sure to leave plenty of time for reheating.
The recipe makes about 24 knishes, but don’t count on there being any leftovers. It’s rare that one is enough.
makes about 24
5 c flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 bars butter or margarine (use non-dairy [pareve] margarine if you keep kosher and are serving meat at your meal)
1 c boiling water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 large onions
1 bar butter or margarine
1 beaten egg mixed with water (egg wash)
To make dough, mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Mix butter or margarine with boiling water. When butter or margarine is melted and cooled, add vinegar and pour at once over the flour mixture. Combine until flour forms a ball. Put mixture in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least one day and up to one week. Cover with plastic wrap and then tin foil.
When you are ready to make the knishes, take out the flour mixture an hour or two before so it can soften a bit. Divide the dough into eight pieces. Boil potatoes and saute onions in a little olive oil. After potatoes are done, drain and combine with a bar of butter or margarine. Beat potatoes and add onions. Add salt to taste. Roll out dough (it may be hard at first) into long rectangles and fill the middle with potatoes. Fold the edges of the dough over the potatoes and place seam side down onto a baking sheet. (If the edges of the dough won’t stick together nicely, paint one edge with a little egg wash and then press the other edge down firmly on top.) Paint with egg wash before you bake. Bake at 375º for 40-45 minutes. Cut each log into three pieces and serve hot from the oven.