Kreplach: Jewish Wontons


Kreplach (or kreplakh) are meat-filled dumplings often served in a clear soup. They are similar to tortellini or Chinese wontons. That's why they are also referred to as "Jewish wontons." They are a traditional pre-fast meal before Yom Kipper, or the Day of Atonement. They are also eaten on Simchat Torah and Purim. Not being very religious, I like to eat them all year round. According to the experts, kreplach may have evolved among Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews in Germany during the 14th century, who got the idea about stuffing dumplings from Jews in Venice, who got the idea from stuffed pasta.

Ground meat can used as the filling for kreplach; but in my circle most of my Jewish friends use ground chicken. I have no problems with whatever meat filling may be used. However, in my experience, the key to great tasting kreplach is an onion cooked with the meat, using not oil but schmaltz, rendered chicken fat.  I know, you're rolling your eyes and saying "Chicken Fat!"  But, yep, there's no way getting around it. You can buy schmaltz in any supermarket these days; or you can make your own. I know it's time consuming, but I prefer to make my own. You can use the same chicken for the meat filling as well as making the schmaltz.

Kreplach, like all good things (think of Puerto Rican pasteles), takes time and patience. Yet the rewards are infinite when you eat the suckers. 

KREPLACH

Filling:

3 tablespoons schmaltz (see recipe)
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 pound ground chicken, cooked
1 egg
Salt and black ground pepper to taste

Dough:

3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons water
2 cups all-purpose flour

Schmaltz:

Take 1 chicken (4-5 pounds), and cut away fatty skin and other fat particles into small pieces. Place pieces in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until water evaporates. Add 1 medium diced onion, and cook on low heat until onions are brown. The fat, or schmaltz, is now done. Let cool and remove onion pieces. Store schmaltz in covered jars. The jars can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator.
       Note: You can cook the leftover chicken by boiling or broiling, and use it for the rest of the recipe.

1. In a medium fry-pan or skillet, heat the schmaltz and saute the onion with the ground chicken. Pour off excess fat and let cool slightly. Mix in the egg and salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. For the dough: In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, salt and pepper. Add  water and gradually beat in enough flour to form a stiff dough. Using your hands, knead well and quickly. Then divide dough into 2 balls; and cover each ball with a moist towel.
3. Using a rolling pin, roll out one ball of dough very thin, and cut into 6 strips, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Now cut the pieces into 1 1/2 inches square.
4. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of meat mixture in center of each dough square. Dampen edges and fold over to form a triangle. Press the edges together firmly, using additional flour if necessary to make them stick. Repeat procedure with the second ball of dough.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, drop kreplach into boiling water and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon. You can also drop kreplach into hot soup and cook them that way. Or you can brown them in the oven or a skillet, and serve as a side dish.
    Yield: About 50-60 kreplach depending on  size.

Photo: courtesy Joy of Kosher


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