My Mom makes the best knishes in the world. So there.
Some of you out there might not know what a knish is. The way I sometimes describe knishes is that they are the Jewish version of a perogie, but not fried and without cheese. Sometimes I describe them simply as potatoes and onions in dough. But that description doesn’t do them any justice at all.
So let me attempt a better description. Knishes start with a mashed potato and onion filling. As if that weren’t good enough, you then wrap the mashed potato and onion filling in lovely, flaky dough. This special package is then baked in the oven until golden brown and slightly crispy on top.
When my Mom makes her knishes, she varies her technique depending on whether or not there is company coming. For company, the onions are sautéed until golden, the potatoes are peeled, and each knish is bite-sized and perfectly formed. When it’s just family, the onions are crispy, the potatoes have their peel left on (more rustic and more fibre!), and she sometimes makes them into a longer shape so that it takes three bites to eat it instead of one.
I’ll be honest with you, I like both versions. But I think I prefer the one with the peel and the crispier onions. The photos here are ones that she made for psuedo-company (family and close friends at Christmas/Chanukah time).
Knishes are how my Mom got me to start eating onions. I didn’t know that knishes had onions in them until I told my Mom that I didn’t like onions. “Really?” she asked. “Did you know that knishes have onions in them?” I was flabbergasted. And now I find myself doing the same thing with my boys, only I haven’t told them yet! I just enjoy watching them gobble them up with big smiles on their faces.
Here is the recipe for my Mom’s Knishes, in her own words.
3 cups flour (Editor’s note: I have tried a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, but it’s definitely better with all white flour.)
1 cup Crisco shortening or oil
1 cup cold water
salt to taste
Mix the ingredients in a food processor till smooth; scoop out, wrap in Saran Wrap or parchment and chill till ready to use (can be frozen).
5lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed
1-2 large onions, minced (Mom uses her food processor)
Fry onions ’til brown in canola oil/Mazola, to cover.
Combine onions and oil with potatoes and mix lightly. Correct seasoning (as in, add some salt and pepper!).
Roll out dough (which should be very elastic) to very thin (use extra flour for rolling). Don’t worry about over-handling this dough- it’s very forgiving. Here’s a photo of Mom rolling out some dough.
Place row of filling near edge of dough, roll the ‘log’ over 3 or 4 times, stretching the roll back each time. Here’s Mom stuffing her knishes.
Cut roll into desired lengths- 1.5″ each, or longer if you prefer ‘logs’. When real company is coming (not family), Mom makes each little knish stand up so that the potato coming out of the top gets crispy in the oven, and they look very dainty. The photo below is of smaller, two bite ‘logs’.
Bake at 350, for 30 minutes in oven centre. Cool on racks. Eat.
That’s them above, hiding behind the giant salad bowl, on the Christmas Eve/Chanukah party buffet table at our house this year.
By the way, if you have any potato mixture left over, it’s great fried up the next day for breakfast! Also, if you want to make mushroom knishes, or spinach knishes, or something like that, just add some sauteed whatever to a base of potatoes and onions and you’re good to go. You can also try sweet potato knishes. Whatever floats your boat.