Friday, June 4, 2010

Dumplings (Pierogi) with Lamb, Morels and Demi-Glace

“Following a recipe is like building a house without adequate foundations, architectural plans or professional builders. In the dark”.
Michael Booth, “Sacre Cordon Bleu. What the French know about cooking”

Around 2 years ago in one American bookstores in Paris (Village Voice), I found a book, the title of which caught my eyes straight away:  “Sacré Cordon Bleu. What the French know about cooking”  by Michael Booth, a travel writer and journalist. Michael had moved to Paris to study at Le Cordon Bleu after having burnt all cookbooks except for Ma cuisine of Auguste Escoffier's. This intelligently, very informative, non pretentious and funnily written book describes his culinary adventures in Paris and in this cooking school. He decided to study the Culinary Art Program, after numerous failures in following cookbooks’ recipes which did not help him to acknowledge techniques and had not empowered him to cook.

Do you share this opinion that, if you strictly follow a recipe, you have a great chance of failure to burn your meat, to dry out your chicken in the oven, to spoil your crème patissière and to overcook your risotto? But in particular, as regards complicated preparations and complex dishes, cookbooks are even less helpful; because they fail to explain the recipe exactly at the moment where a problem starts (it is the same with books for lawyers usually). Why it is that, beginner cooks so often complain about their failures when following cookbooks’ recipes? In my case, the biggest practical knowledge I gained comes from my husband, who, when he was younger, spent years as a cook and a pastry chef in French restaurants in Los Angeles and New York City. He taught me such obvious and non obvious things like to put a dump paper towel under your cutting board once you chop and slice; he showed me professional cutting techniques and some preparations; he supervised me on how to organize your working table and kitchen without making a mess (although, still, it does not always work) and he gave me lessons of homemade veal stock, for example.

Those few ideas that Michael Boot gives in the introduction to his book, are remarkable.
“…The failings of recipe books are inevitable; however it is not the writers’ fault.
Most cookbooks are written with the best intention at heart, usually by highly skilled cooks, and their recipes are properly tested, but how can Jamie Oliver possibly know the exact condition, size, ripeness, tenderness or colour of the ingredients you will be using?
How they can know how efficient your oven is or how cold your fridge is? How they can know how thick your frying pan is, or the quality of meat you are using?
How do they know temperature of your kitchen, or whether you like to cook with a window open, that your Kenwood has seen better days and doesn’t quite whisk the gusto it once had, or that your grill is so caked in grime  that it can barely muster half the heat it ought to?...
….And these are merely the issues that plague the well – written, thoroughly tested recipe books. What about all those cobbled together recipes in the back of women’s magazines and the Sunday supplements, or those dodgy posting on the Internet, on blogs and notice boards that many home cooks have started to use more and more?
Some times recipes do work, of course, but those occasions are, I suspect, more to do with a blessed alignment of the culinary planets than any rigorous intent on the part of the cookbook writer. But even when recipes do work, cookbooks rarely, if ever, empower you to cook. It took me years of harrowing kitchen failures to realize that this, but a proper cook knows techniques rather than formulas; a proper cook can look at a plate of raw ingredients and conjure an infinite repertoire of dishes. A proper cook, I eventually convinced myself, needs just one cookery book: Auguste Escoffier’s Ma cuisine…

And as regards today's recipe: at the beginning of my blogging experience I wrote about Pierogi and I presented two popular and rustic versions of this dish: a savory cheese-potato-onion version “Pierogi Ruskie and a sweet version  "Pierogi with Bilberries".

The Pierogi concept, or rather the idea (like Italian raviolis, for example), has endless opportunities for experiments with various stuffing. But during decades of a communism regime we could only “enjoy” their more simple rural versions. Pierogi with meat fillings are one of the most common versions and you will find them in nearly every food shop (frozen or cooked), fast food bars at gas stations, cantinas and restaurants. Pork meat is often used for stuffing, but beef and veal are used as well. However you can use any type of meat you desire: chicken, turkey, duck, lamb. You may even use fish as well. Traditionally, meat is firstly baked or cooked (you can use leftovers from dinner), and then grind it before stuffing. When I was a teenager, I called Pierogi with meat “a review of a week”. One could never be sure what type of meat leftovers had been used for stuffing in a school cantina or a low quality bistro at a railway station.

For a long time, I had in my mind the idea of Pierogi stuffed with lamb’s meat (easy to buy in France) and served with fresh morels (or at least, frozen ones - those one can find in every Picard store). So when the morel season started last month and when I saw those fresh mushrooms at our food market on boulevard Raspail, I agreed to ruin my daily food budget and decided to buy a small quantity of them (because they are so expensive, if I remember well, around 120 € per kilo). The season for fresh morels is short. That’s why you can use frozen or dried ones (dried morels can be reconstituted by soaking them in water). Eventually, you can experiment with other forest mushrooms.

This time, instead of preparing my Pierogi the traditional way, I stuffed my dumplings with raw, ground meat, the way Russian Pelmeni are done. The main reason for doing so was that I wanted to avoid spoiling this delicious lamb meat by cooking it twice.

We served them with a homemade Demi-Glace  (I will share with you this great recipe in one of my following posts).  I realize that veal stock is a kind of preparation that it is difficult to make at home (for example, in some countries you will not get any veal bones in any store) and those industrial powdered stocks are hopeless. The authentic, homemade veal stock itself may not be very interesting in taste. But what is fascinating about it, once you combine it with other flavors, like for example, the juice from these lamb’s pierogi, it becomes something absolutely outstanding. If you do not have homemade veal stock, feel free to use just mushrooms, some extra melted butter, some more fresh thyme and some hard, grated cheese (I used some Oscypek, but every hard,  sheep’s cheese, will be good). You can serve them eventually just sprinkled with some fresh, chopped mint, if you do not like mushrooms.

Dumplings (Pierogi) with Lamb, Morels and Demi-Glace

Serves 4 (makes between 30-40 Pierogi depending on their size)

500 g ground raw lamb meat
3-4 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
200 g fresh morels (optionally, you can use dried or frozen)
50 g grated Oscypek or any other hard, salty sheep’s cheese (optional)
200 ml homemade veal stock (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Start with the preparation of morels. Clean them delicately, wash them and dry them out with a paper towel.
In a hot frying pan, add olive oil and fry shallots, after five minutes add garlic and thyme and fry until gold on a medium flame. Mix often and do not let them burn.
Put aside.
In a bowl, mix lamb’s meat with fried shallots, garlic and thyme. Salt and pepper.
Mix everything delicately and taste.
Put the filling aside and, in the meantime, prepare pierogi dough as described in the basic recipe. You can roll out the dough a bit thicker (you will stuff your Pierogi with raw meat and they have to be cooked a bit longer than normally).
Once Pierogi are ready for cooking, put them aside (be careful, they should not stick to each other) and cover them with a dish towel (so they will not dry out).
In a large saucepan, bring to a boil 4 liters of water and add a bit of salt.
In the meantime, in a hot frying pan, melt butter and add a bit of olive oil. Fry mushrooms on a quite high flame, until gold.
Pour the veal stock into a small saucepan and reduce it to around 2/3 of its volume. To intensify the stock’s flavor, you can put one or two morels into it few minutes before the end of reduction.
Once your sauce and mushrooms are ready, add Pierogi (but remove the table cloth, of course) into boiling water (10 to 15 pieces at a time). Cook Pierogi about for 5 minutes. The best way to check whether the meat is cooked is to take one dumpling and simply taste it.
Serve immediately with the warm veal stock and morels, sprinkled with a bit of grated cheese. These Pierogi also taste wonderful when grilled for a few minutes after cooking.

Lamb – 11 €
Morels – 24 €
Remaining ingredients (flour, eggs, thyme, shallot, garlic, a bit of cheese) - 2 €
Veal stock – we had some in stock in our freezer (anyway, you do not buy bones in France, you get them for free)


Karolina said...

WOW! This is all I can say at the momentm before I collect my jaw that dropped on a floor. ;)

LidKa said...

Nie będę powtarzać po przedmówczyni...;)

Cooking with Kait said...

This is a terrific recipe and as you mentioned dumplings are so versatile. I love your use of lamb with morels.

anthony said...

Piekne zdjecia i smakowite przepisy Magda! Nigdy jesze nie jadlam smardzow i widzialam je tylko w ksiazkach. Ciekawa jestem jaki maja smak. Pozdrawiam.

Paula said...

rewelacyjnie podałaś te smardze Madzia! bardzo apetycznie :)

Emily Malloy said...

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous Pierogi!

miss_coco said...

Po kazdym twoim poscie odejmuje mi mowe ;) Nawet sobie nie probuje wyobrazic jak to bajecznie musi smakowac ...
Chapeau !

Asha @ FSK said...

Wow! what an idea! and, I even have some dried morrels at home! It's a sign! This one will be on a plate soon! :))

lo said...

Jak patrzę na te smardze, to przyznam się szczerze, ze mnie zazdrość zżera. Liedyś kupiłam je w e Francji i delektowaliśmy się ich smakiem. Ostatnio znlazłam do kupienia suszone i już miałam w planach cudne danie i rozkosz smaku, ale cena wysudziła moje zapały. 3500 (!) za kilogram. Taniej polecieć po nie do Francji.

my little expat kitchen said...

What a wonderful recipe! I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy the quality of tour recipes. Great job!

Inspired2cook said...

The dumplings look amazing! Morels grow wild out here in Oregon. Yumm!

Szalony Kucharz said...

Well well well... This one post puts all my kitchen efforts into shame. Lamb stuffed into pierogies and morels to that, and demi-glace as a cherry on top. Damn girl, I've been asking my butcher for a month now to get me some proper beef marrow bones - to no avail - so I could make my first ever fond brun, and you're making your own dark sauces at home like some new incarnation of Julia Child. I better get back to making my curd cheese and cream for breakfasts instead of trying to hang out with the real chefs.


What a lovely meal! I'm a little jealous of your morels. It's hard to find them where I live.

Magdalena said...

LIDKO: A co, mamy sie zadowalac ciagle tymi pierogami chłopskiej postaci... ? A to pole do eksperymentowania jest, ze hej ! Nie namawiam nikogo do robienie wlasnego fond de veau, ale smardze z jagniecina idą w parze, że hej!

ANTHONY: dziękuję za wizytę na blogu. Z tymi smardzami to dziwna sprawa. Na targu kosztują drakońskie pieniądze i wierzcie mi, że jadam je bardzo rzadko; natomiast czasem ludziom rosną po ogrodach ...setkami...Smak: otóż właśnie smardz ma dość nieciekawy sam w sobie a strukturę trochę gumiastą, ale za to dodany do sosu nadaje charakterystyczny, ciekawy aromat; ogólnie to chyba jednak są za drogie.

MISS_COCO_ bez przesady...:) czekam na kolejne reportazyki z Belgii...!

LO: 3500 za suszone smardze ????? To niemożliwe chyba! Tu 60 g suszonych w dobrym sklepie kosztuje gdzies 25 euro. I tak za drogo dla mnie.....a przecież ten grzyb rośnie też w Polsce !

tasteofbeirut said...

I am listening to Aznavour's top hits while reading your post and I think it is a most remarkable post: first of all I agree totally with you and the author of this book(that I will read soon!): recipes are so incomplete by essence; there are so many variables that the cookbook author cannot possibly cover; for me, recipes just offer ideas, inspiration; the rest is up to me and my experience or lack thereof; by the way, I realized the beauty of demi-glace fe veau when I cooked the seven-hour lamb; I love your pierogi they look absolutely professional and your photos are exquisite. Marvelous job as always.

eleni said...

Although, I am an occasional meat eater... I had to say that your recipes are marvelous... and so are the images!!! Glad to have seen you...

Ewa said...

Smardze, eh, pozazdrościć

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

This looks like such an amazing dish! I have never seen such sophisticated peirogi. And I adore morel mushrooms. I do agree with you about following recipes... ovens vary, ingrediants vary so it's really hard. But my very favorite cookbooks often offer great tips.

lo said...

rośnie w Polsce, ale jest pod ochroną i teoretycznie nie można kupić polskich. A ja się upewniałam u sprzedawcy co do ceny trzykrotnie. Myślałam, że 350 zł, ale nie 3500. Taką cenę mają w sklepie Kuchnie Świata w W-wie. Powiem szczerze, że byłam zszokowana.

Magdalena said...

Lo, nie mialam pojecia, ze smardze sa pod ochrona. Dzieki za cynk. Na dodatek ktos ostatnio gdzies wspominal, jak to sobie zrewal pol kilo (a moze i wiecej) tych grzybow we wlasnym ogrodzie !

Magdalena said...

Lo, zapomnialam dodac, ze cena - 3500 absolutnie powalajaca.

Magdalena said...

KUCHARZ: well, well, well. There in Ireland you must be really miserable because of the lack of those bones! Julia Child ? Are you crazy? I am not as tall as she was, neither am I as well off as she was. And I do not chop so well, as she did ! You ashamed me!

JOUMANA and KATIE, this book is worthy recommendation. The author gives some remarkable recipes based on his Le Cordon Bleu Experience (not so many, maybe 10 or 15). He wrote a new book, which has been published recently, about Japan. It is available on Amazon already. I share your view as regards cookbooks, I like to buy them, I have a lot of them, but I am cautious about them, at the same time (I trust maybe 2 or 3 cookbooks). I love fond de veau, but it is true that very few people make this at home; even in many restaurants they do not cook veal stock (Booth mentions that one day the sale of bones will be prohibited in France). Thanks a lot for all your warm word.

KAROLINA, if you have a chance to try combination of lamb and morels, I recommend it.

KAIT: thanks for stopping by and for appreciating my dumplings.

EMILY: yes, dumplings are great! Hope you will have a chance to try this combination one day.

ASHA: you are lucky to have some fresh morels at home. They are awfully expensive here. Thanks for stopping by!

MAGDA, hello! I can see that you are an expat. Nice to see you here and all good to you in the Netherlands!

INSPIRED2COOK, I am really jealous about your Oregon morels. One Polish blogger left a comment that morels in Poland are under protection and it is prohibited to pick them up (I did not know them). 1 kg of dried morels in Warsaw costs around 1 thousand US dollars, can you believe that?

SPICYPERSEPCTIVE: do not be jealous; the season is nearly finished and morels are gone…be rather jealous about those which grow in Oregon. Kind regards!

ELENI, thanks for commenting. I can see that you are more into vegetarian and vegan cooking and that is why I appreciate your comment, because this recipe is so extreme for those who are not meat lovers.

Magdalena said...

Noblevo, Lo pisala dzisiaj jak drogie sa smardze suszone w Polsce...

Tanantha@ I Just Love My Apron said...

WOW Magdalena, this looks DARN good! I only have Chinese dumplings and this just looks so scrumptious.

I think cooking takes practice like all things. A cookbook only tells you what to put and how to do but to solve and adjust things to suit your conditions takes expereince and practice.

You're so lucky to have your husband show you the tricks!

citronetvanille said...

OH those are gorgeous, look at those morels! beautiful photo and recipe! Simply beautiful...

Magdalena said...

TANANTHA, that's exactly what you write. My husband showed me tricks, although I am still only a medium advanced amateur and I have to learn a lot, a lot of things!
CITRONETVANILLE, thanks. Have a good day.

tasteofbeirut said...

I am sure you can find the shredded phyllo in Paris; just go to any middle eastern or greek shop.

Karolina said...

I have not tried it before, Magda. I remember your instruction how to make a rich veal stock for a demi-glace base - I still have it printed somewhere - waiting for better times. ;) Unfortunately almost all veal produced in UK goes abroad, most of it to France. So there is no chance for any bones. :/ Also I believe morels are not so common where I live, I have not seen them since I have moved here. Perhaps in big cities... This is one of the advantages of big cities, such as Paris. ;) Your pierogi look realy, realy tasty.

Magdalena said...

KAROLINA: I know that you cannot cook your own veal stock, because it is not possible for you to find veal bones...I have just meant to try pierogi with lamb and morels (and omit veal stock). Have a nice evening!

JOUMANA, thanks for info. I are going to have a dinner tonight in the 14th, and I will try to check some grocery stores there.

5STARFOODIE, thanks, nice to see you again. Take care!

Ewelina Majdak said...

O rany Magda.
Nie wiem co napisać.
Jej jakie Ty masz lekkie pióro po angielsku :)

Maggie said...

Wonderful sounding combination! I love the photos of the morels.

Magdalena said...

POLKO: E tam lekkie; sie napracowac musze...:)

5STARFOODIE and MAGGIE: great that you like my pierogi. Take care guys...:)

Delishhh said...

Magdalena, another great post. I just wish you lived a little closer so i could come over for dinner.

Magdalena said...

hello, eva...nice to see your here...i leave for poland this week, but i hope i will have enough time to think about the sunshine award...lately, i am very busy here...kind regards

Lori Lynn said...

Love the balance of your dish highlighting each ingredient. I bet it tasted awesome! Beautiful photos too!

buruuberii said...

Magda, oj wspaniale zdjecia, nawet jak nie jestem milosnikiem grzybow, to oew zdjecie ze smardzami jest piekne, kard idealny!

A na marginesie, w zyciu smardzy nie jadlam... One maja zdecydowanie "grzybowy" smak?

Anonymous said...

Good... dit blog interessant en nuttig
obat sakit maag yg alami

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