Sunday, January 24, 2010

Product Review: Hren (horseradish relish)

The pink stuff’s hren (хрен). Say it with me: hren!* Hren means horseradish in Russian, and that’s horseradish relish with beets in the photo. Hren is a very popular Russian condiment, and Eastern European groceries sell different varieties that range from mild to bitingly spicy. The beet version is my favorite: sweet-and-sour and delightfully fuchsia. Hren is typically eaten with meats or cold cuts, but I also like it on roasted potatoes.

*By the way, in Russian, the word “hren” and its variants are a milder version of the equivalent to the f-bomb. It’s sort of like saying “freakin’” instead of the real thing in English.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Calling All Blogs

If you write a blog on Russian or Eastern European cooking, please leave a comment or e-mail me at I'd like to compile a list of links to food blogs that cover this topic. Blogs on food from the former Soviet Republics are welcome, too.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cooking Notes

This post takes inspiration from former Milwaukee food blogger Haverchuk, who used to do roundups of cooking that hadn’t made it onto the blog that month, “like the deleted scenes on your DVDs.”

A few weeks ago I made draniki, Belarusian potato pancakes. These are a lot like latkes, but without the onion. You shred about 5 or 6 small peeled potatoes in a food processor; then add 2 tablespoons of flour, a beaten egg, salt and pepper. Be sure to salt the batter generously, or your pancakes will be bland.

Heat a glug of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan, and ladle ¼-cup scoops of batter into the pan. The pancakes should be 3 to 4 inches long, about 2 inches wide, and ¼-inch thin. When frying, you really have to generous with the oil, or the pancakes start burning. Fry for about 30 to 50 seconds, then flip and fry for another 30 seconds; repeat until both sides are golden-brown, about 2 minutes. These are pretty good with sour cream. Tip: Don’t make them on a weeknight when you really don’t feel like cleaning oil splatters off the stove, okay?

I tried these spinach-stuffed mushrooms at a New Year’s party, and have made them about four or five times since then. This is a Paula Deen recipe, and it’s really quite delicious. Unlike most of Deen’s repertoire, it doesn’t even call for five pounds of butter. I did make some tweaks to the original directions. Be sure to sauté the mushrooms caps for about 5 to 7 minutes before stuffing them, otherwise they don’t cook through. For the spinach filling, I subbed some homemade farmer's cheese for the feta. Ricotta would work, too.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Well, this pickled mushroom recipe bombed. In fact, my mushrooms turned out like barely edible little salt bombs. The recipe, which I followed precisely, called for two tablespoons of plain non-iodized salt to one pound of mushrooms. What went wrong here? Is there any way to fix this?

By the way, the recipe, from Anne Volokh's The Art of Russian Cuisine, is very similar to this Deb Perelman recipe, which also turned out unbearably salty when I tried it a few years ago. (Perelman is behind the usually foolproof Smitten Kitchen blog.)
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