Our second Lost and Found Recipes column features an open pastry with an oniony meat filling, requested by Joyce Stiler, chicken fricassee with meatballs, requested by Eileen Stone, and from Dorothy Zachmann, a fragrant jam made from rose petals.
Many Ashkenazi cuisines feature some form of the chicken fricassee recipe, though there are differences from region to region (for example, some Hungarian versions resemble chicken paprikash) and according to personal preferences (such as adding tomato sauce). I never realized this as a child: I always assumed the recipe was one of those dishes my mother created, just as my father had made up that adorable story about the origin of roast pig (Charles Lamb's talents notwithstanding).
After all, the fricassee was first cousin to what my mom called gedempte chicken: an old hen who had given her all to the Sabbath soup, now flattered with onions, garlic, and tomato sauce into providing yet another course for the meal.
Little did I know that millions of Jewish mothers before and since also use up the other by-product of the Friday night dinner-bony chicken parts-to create a singular appetizer, chicken fricassee. The bones make for an exceptionally flavorful sauce, and so the dish was stretched even further with tiny meatballs.
I was familiar with rose petal jams from Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, but when I researched the request from Dorothy, whose grandmother came from the Rumania/Ukraine area, I was intrigued to find the jam not only there but as far north as Poland too. It is served with tea and bread, spread on cakes and crepes, and used to fill jelly doughnuts.
I began the search for Joyce's mother-in-law's meat pastries-remembered as sounding something like beelishe-some time ago, hoping to post it for the first Lost and Found column, but I kept running into dead ends. I had no luck poring through scores of old Jewish cookbooks at the Jewish Division of NYPL or with internet searches trying various spellings as well as permutations of descriptors. Following up on a lead from Joyce's husband, I also went through the several Turkish cookbooks I have in my home collection. All to no avail.
This go-round I began with Russian cookbooks. In both Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman (Workman 1990) and Memories from a Russian Kitchen: From Shtetl to Golden Land complied and edited by Rosalie Sogolow (Fithian Press 1996)-a book that I had somehow missed before-I found nearly identical recipes for something called beliashi and described in both as Tatar Meat Pies. The meat and onion filling appeared to fit Joyce's description. But both recipes substituted a very American convenience food for the traditional pastry: Pillsbury refrigerator biscuit dough!
Using the new spelling and "Tatar Meat Pie" in new searches led to several links and many hits (including a post by a Russian-Israeli woman who prepares them from refrigerator dinner rolls). I learned that the open meat pies, originally introduced by the Tatars, a Turkhic ethnic group, became quite popular throughout the former Soviet Union and are a favorite fast food item there today.
I've included a quick version of a yeast dough traditionally used by Russian cooks as well as a popular sour cream pastry. Joyce thinks the dough might have contained both yeast and sour cream, and while there probably are recipes out there combining both, the ones I have been turning up are for sweet fillings. And I did want to get the recipe posted for this edition of Lost and Found. For those looking for quick fixes, I've also included the refrigerator dough alternative. The filling sounds delectable.
There are several recipes I'm still working on and the next edition of Lost and Found recipes will probably be posted in early spring. Readers, if you know a recipe or pertinent data related to it that another reader has requested in our Readers' Forum, please share it with us. And please continue to send in your own requests!
Happy Hanukkah! Try the beliashi, which are fried in oil, for a great Hanukkah meal one night; chicken fricassee with meat balls, prepared in advance and reheated just before serving, would make a terrific prelude to a platter of latkes. And if you are lucky enough to have a garden of roses still growing at this time of year, I'm sure the rose petal jam would be heavenly in homemade sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts.