There’s one item on the Jewish Bill o’ Fare that gets short shrift these days, and it’s time that situation was corrected.
Bagels? Aw, c’mon. Everybody knows bagels. You can buy bagels in Salt Lake fucking City. You can get (gag) a bacon and egg bagel at McDungheap’s. They may not be good bagels, but bagels they are.
Gefilte fish? Maybe. File that one under “Dishes the Non-Jews Generally Don’t Monkey With.” And rightly so, especially if it’s the commercial kind that comes in a jar, complete with plenty of Fishy Jell-O Sauce.
Borscht? Schav? P’tcha? Nope. Too arcane. Plenty of folks know about borscht, that yummy beet soup, but ya gotta be a Master o’ Culinary Cabbala to be familiar with schav (sorrel soup) or p’tcha (calf’s foot jelly, intensely flavored with garlic). My mother was a p’tcha fan, but the recessive gene that confers Love of Weird Crap was not passed on unto mine own Germ Plasm.
I’m talkin’ ’bout kishka.
Kishka, ambrosia of the Eastern European table. Kishka, former Side-Dish Staple, found on every catered wedding or Bar Mitzvah dinner plate, sitting beside the meat in its own little pool of warm, brown gravy, cleverly described on menus as “Stuffed Derma” so as not to horrify the uneducated. Kishka!
Kishka: a kosher beef intestine, stuffed sausage-like with a mass of flour and bread crumbs compounded with Beef Suet, eggs, garlic, and spices. On Passover, the flour and bread crumbs would be booted out unceremoniously, with matzoh meal taking their place. Baked, sliced, and served with beefy gravy, kishka was the Ultimate Indulgent Side-Dish. Like chopped liver, enough of it would stop your heart - but what a happy way to go!
Esteemed Readers, it is time to bring Kishka out of the closet.
I can see it now. On Iron Chef, Chairman Kaga whips back a cloth covering a mound of the secret ingredient: “Ki-shi-ka! Ar-rei Ku-i-jin! [Kishka! Allez cuisine!]”
And then there’s the Bubbe Gumpowski Kishka Company, with their Comprehensive Menu of All Things Kishka: Kishka étoufée; kishka gumbo; fried kishka; baked kishka; kishka Florentine; chicken soup with kishka dumplings; spam, spam, spam, spam, kishka and spam; and onwards, ad infinitum.
If you haven’t tried it, don’t hold back. Starch and grease, ya gotta love it!
Feeling brave? Here’s a recipe for kishka that you can make at home, without the muss and bother of dealing with Lengths of Beef Intestine. Yes: a Kishka-less Kishka, but it’s getting harder and harder to stay completely Old-School in these matters.
½ cup vegetable oil
2 stalks celery
1½ cups flour
1¼ tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a blender, puree the vegetables with the oil until you have a thick paste. Empty the glop into a large bowl and add the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix well; you should have a nice doughy mass.
Roll the mixture into a thick cylinder and wrap securely in aluminum foil. Place the kishka on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 90 minutes. Slice and serve it forth.
This recipe makes a (parve) vegetarian kishka, but if you wanna doll it up with some beefy gravy, be my guest.
Kishka! It’s what’s for dinner!