Lithuania’s National Dish is Cepelinai (or Zeppelins) which are Potato-Meat Dumplings. This dish was cited pretty much unanimously on the web as the National Dish of Lithuania. Perhaps now everyone can see why I was putting this one off. On a hot summer day, heavy potato dumplings don’t really come to mind. Plus, I am pretty sure I have eaten this exact thing already, except it was Norwegian and called Klub. So, I know what to expect!
Lithuanian Cepelinai (Potato-Meat Dumplings)
Adapted from an amalgamation of various recipes on the web but mostly from About.Com
This represents a 1/2 recipe
4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, grated, and blended into a mush (applesauce consistency)
1 large Idaho potato, peeled, boiled and riced
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound ground pork
1 small onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 small egg
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 small chopped onion
1 cup sour cream
pepper to taste
- Mix all meat ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the grated and mushed potatoes so they don’t turn brown. Place in a cheesecloth or cotton dish towel and twist to get rid of excess water. Do this in small batches. I did about 1/2 potato per squeeze. Pour off water, and reserve the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
- Unwrap cheesecloth and place potatoes in bowl with potato starch, riced boiled potatoes, grated onion and salt. Mix well.
- Put a large stockpot of water on to boil.
- To form Cepelinai, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand creating a disk. Place 1/4 cup meat mixture in centre and using slightly dampened hands fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape sealing well.
- Carefully lower dumplings into salted, boiling water to which 1 tbsp cornstarch has been added (to prevent dumplings from falling apart).
- Make sure water returns to the boil and continue boiling for 45 minutes. Gently turn as they cook to try. Remove dumplings and drain on a clean dish towel.
- While dumplings are boiling make the gravy. Fry the bacon and onion until tender. Drain and combine with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1-2tbsp milk if necessary.
Sauce 8/10 – C’mon, it’s bacon, onion and sour cream!
Ceplinai 1/10 – Probably the least appropriate thing to make for what is so far Montreal’s most humid day of the year – or does it just feel like that after standing over a pot full of boiling glutinous balls of potato? The texture is really horrific, and without the sauce I am going to say it is pretty much inedible. And yes, it’s pretty much the same as the Norwegian Klub. It took ages and squeezing out all that potato water was an absolute mess. Never again…