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Who's Cooking: David Brown, Centerport

David Brown, 14, of Centerport, makes knishes using

David Brown, 14, of Centerport, makes knishes using his great-grandmother's recipe. "They're really simple and delicious," he says. Photo Credit: Barbara Alper

DAVID BROWN

David Brown, 14, a student at Harborfields High School, lives in Centerport with his parents and sister.

 

How long have you been cooking?

A pretty long time. I guess since elementary school, starting with little stuff like eggs. I've got my grandma and her mother was a great cook. I was very young when she died, but we have some of her recipes, that were great. So my mom and I would cook them.

Tell us about her knish recipe.

I guess I first tried it on a Jewish holiday or maybe on the anniversary of my nana's death, because they're for special occasions. But they're really simple and delicious.

Any advice for someone making knishes for the first time?

Since the dough has to be stretched, it can get very thin, and there will be little holes. As you get better, there will be fewer holes and you'll be able to stretch the dough thinner. I'll use a rolling pin and then stretch it by hand, kind of go back and forth. It is better to have the dough thin. I've gotten the dough pieces to about 8 inches by 12 inches long. The recipe can take a long time. Don't be surprised. But it is worth it when it's all done.

Have you made any changes to the original?

Nope. But I only use butter. My great-grandmother sometimes used margarine.

What do you do with leftovers?

If we know there are going to be leftovers, we'll sometimes just bake the knishes long enough so we can bake them again to finish them. You can freeze and reheat leftovers if you're going to have them for a long time. You can also keep leftovers in the fridge, but don't put them in the oven very long to reheat.

 

NANA TOBY'S FAMOUS KNISHES

For the filling:

½ cup vegetable oil

2½ pounds onions, thinly sliced

5 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

 

For the dough:

? cup vegetable oil

¾ cup lukewarm water

2? cups flour, plus more for rolling out dough

¾ pound (3 sticks) butter, melted and cooled

1 cup matzo meal

 

1. Make filling: Heat ½ cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. In a large pot of salted water, bring potatoes to boil. Cook until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash until smooth. Mix with onions. Set aside.

3. Make dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or line it with parchment.

4. Place ? cup vegetable oil and water in a large bowl. Slowly add flour, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to mix until dough is pliable and not sticky. Place a clean tablecloth on a table and sprinkle with flour. Knead the dough on the floured cloth until elastic.

5. Cut dough in quarters and knead each quarter slightly. With a floured rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a 6-inch round, keeping each round covered until all quarters are rolled out.

6. With floured hands, stretch each quarter by putting dough over tops of your hands and gently stretching. Place each piece on the floured cloth and continue to stretch as thin as possible, trying to get to 8-by-12 inches (you may not be able to stretch it this thin on your first few tries). Brush each round with butter and cover the surface with matzo meal.

7. Spoon ¼ of the filling mixture in a line down the center of 1 round of rolled-out dough, starting (and ending) ¾ inch from the edge of the dough. Gently fold the right and left sides of the dough over the filling. Flatten the top of the dough cylinder slightly with the back of a spoon. Cut the dough every 2 to 3 inches diagonally at a 45-degree angle. Repeat with other 3 rounds.

8. Place knishes on prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 1 hour. Makes about 40 knishes.

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