Amy Pennington preparing fried fish (smelt)
Remember the Good Fish class I took at The Pantry at Delancey ? Well it was so spectacular I signed up for another one-Croatian Cooking. Why Croatian cooking,well, even though I'm not 100% certain of where my relatives emigrated from, I do know (fingers crossed) that is was somewhere in the Croatia-Slovenia-Lithuania-Russia area. That really narrows it down doesn't it ? So when I saw this class, I thought great-get back to my roots or something like that. I learned so much in this class. The top 2 items being :#1, I love fried smelt and #2 I love the Croatian noodles called Mlinci. What I also learned is that our chef instructor, Amy Pennington, is an author,blogger,gardener,chef,teacher,former assistant to Tom Douglas,lover of chicken fat and a very funny person. Oh and she has a Croatian family. She spent time in Croatia and learned these recipes from the experts !
Addictive fried smelt
The menu for the evening was:
Turnip & Potato Soup - made with leeks,turnips,Yukon gold potatoes,sage and chicken stock
Fried Fishes- Smelt dredged in flour,smoked paprika,salt and pepper and fried in canola oil
Mlinci (those incredible Croatian noodles) & Roast Chicken
Apple Strudel-stretched,rolled and filled with cinnamon,sugar and sliced apples
Rolling out the dough for Mlinci
Since the whole concept behind The Pantry at Delancey is "community kitchen" that means prepped and cooked by the community -that would be us-willing students. We had our work cut out for us and we had a leader with a clip board and "to do " list (always a good idea for organizing your meal prep). Roll out the dough for the Mlinci,chop the turnips,chop the onions,break down the chicken,put the soup on,bake the Mlinci,fry the fish,eat the fish (again caution very very addictive),slice the onions,eat some more of the fish ,bake the chicken,boil the Mlinci,fry the Mlinci,stretch the Strudel dough,fill the Strudel,bake the Strudel, drink the wine and sit down to a simple delicious meal prepared by all of us. This was no fancy schmancy meal,but this was an incredibly tasty meal and oh so very filling. I should have walked home from the class to burn off the calories (which with the chicken fat,dough,sugar and everything else had to exceed 4 digit calorie counts !).
Still rolling Mlinci dough
Baked Mlinci, even as a cracker it's pretty good -looks a little scary but don't be put off by appearances
Once it's boiled and then fried in chicken fat -it's so very good !
About those Mlinci - I discovered these bites of deliciousness are made with flour,water,salt and eggs. Once baked they are crisp cracker like discs that you break into pieces and then reconstitute in boiling water. Then fry them in chicken fat-or duck fat (caution cholesterol alert). I found out that they can be served as a main dish with cream or butter, or topped with curd cheese and poppy seeds, and as a dessert when drizzled with honey. Anyway you serve them is going to be noodlelicious !
A recipe from The Pantry at Delancey
Yield: 6 servings
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups cold water
Fat drippings for frying
Preheat oven to 400F
Place all ingredients except the fat drippings into a kitchen mixer with a dough hook. Knead until the dough comes together completely and forms a smooth ball. Separate the dough into four even pieces and roll out on floured surface. Roll thin and evenly,about the thickness of tagliatelle noodles. Place each piece on a sheet pan so that they aren't touching (you will need to use several pans). Bake until golden brown 20- 30 minutes.
Fill a large pasta pot with water and salt and bring to a boil. When Mlinci are cool enough to handle break them into wide noodle like strips-they will probably break into giant taco chip shapes-that is okay. Drop the baked and broken Mlinci into boiling water and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes.
While those are cooking, add chicken fat (or duck fat) to a cast iron skillet or large heavy saute pan and heat over medium high heat, any liquid will evaporate leaving behind the fat.
Add cooked Mlinci directly to the saute pan or skillet. Keep them in a single layer and let them brown-don't stir them for about 4-6 minutes. Then toss once to brown the other side. Using tongs, remove Mlinci,shaking off extra fat and add them to the platter you will be serving the chicken (or duck or turkey) on . Continue to add Mlinci to the skillet or saute pan until finished-add olive oil or butter if you run out of chicken fat. You can deglaze this pan (with Vermouth or white wine) when finished cooking the Mlinci. Then pour that fabulous liquid and brown bits over the Mlinci before serving. Serve immediately then head for the treadmill !
Learning all about breaking down a chicken !
Great idea for roasting- a bed of onions with chicken on top-the onions caramelize--hmm good
Makings for the turnip potato soup-wonderful aromas filled the kitchen
Amy starting to stretch the Strudel dough
It's a team effort to stretch the Strudel
Apples,cinnamon and sugar Strudel filling
Our excellent roast chicken and that heavenly Mlinci-nom nom chicken fat,chewy crispy noodles and onions
Voila-Apple Strudel-perfect ending to a perfect class
So proud of our chopping skills
Photo from The Pantry at Delancey via Facebook
This was such an enjoyable learning experience, I look forward to my next class there Pates and Terrines:Duck-watch for that adventure in mid-June. That class is described as : "One of our favorite butchers, Sarah Wong, is back with another set of fantastic charcuterie classes! In this hands-on workshop she’ll show you how to make some of her favorite duck-based pâtés and terrines: classic duck confit with new potatoes cooked in duck fat, duck bresaola with Rioja-balsamic gastrique, duck liver pâté with shaved radish and fennel, and mason jar pâté with cherry mostarda." By the time June rolls around I will have worked off the calories from this Croatian meal !
PS. Amy Pennington is one of those amazing woman you feel blessed to have had contact with. If you get a chance to take a class from her jump at it. In the mean time you can buy her books : Apartment Gardening or Urban Pantry at Amazon.
Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the Pantry at Delancey and did not receive any monetary or product gain from them or Amy Pennington .