Sunday, March 13

a Russian inspired dinner -- fodder for creativity!

It's Russian Night...

 Our Culinary Club gathers for an authentic Russian inspired dinner - complete with guests singing Russian folk songs, tales of leaving Russia, gag gifts, vodka, dancing and delcious fare!

What's on the menu?
You may have stopped by here on Nest over the Holidays and saw lots of cookies coming out of the oven, pies cooling and my tasty recipe trading party.  It was truly one of the most enjoyable posts I've created and a way to bring in many of my bloggy friends and their special cooking tips and recipes to my viewers.  Through all these festivities I gathered some of my local friends and we decided to have a collaborative dinner party...we ran over to the Bronx and sampled authentic Italian fare and later I hosted a Pot Luck Dinner where we all prepared a dish from ingredients we sourced on our trip to Arthur Avenue the day before.  The group has now expanded to include five couples and we have a fun Culinary Club, each time choosing a different cultural fare to explore together and later, share a meal. Our hosts Rob and Irene hosted Russian Night in their Connecticut home:

An Italian Dinner I hosted back in December:

 Read about our Italian Pot Luck
and our trip to Arthur Ave in the Bronx post here
It just so happens that our host for the Russian evening is a born Russian herself, so we emphasized the "authentic" part of this particular dinner.  First, we headed to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn for a sampling of Russian traditions and later we meet in Connecticut for a collaborative dinner and celebration

Our local culinary inspiration: 
Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn

Emmons in Sheepshead Bay 

clad with our homemade goodies we drove from NYC together to host Rob & Irene's home in Connecticut

Our gracious hosts Rob and Irene

"Sheepshead Bay is a a bay separating the mainland of Brooklyn, New York City from the eastern portion of Coney Island, the latter originally a barrier island but now effectively an extension of the mainland with peninsulas both east (the neighborhood of Manhattan Beach) and west (the neighborhood of Sea Gate). Its mouth is about a mile (1.6 km) southwest of Marine Park, Brooklyn.

"In the last decade of the 20th century, a real estate boom brought the reopening of the landmark Lundy Brothers seafood restaurant, which closed again in 2007, as well as the opening of Soviet-style restaurants/nightclubs such as Paradise and Baku Palace. The waterfront also experienced a growth of condominium developments. Emmons Avenue, the northern shoreline street along the bay, has piers with an active seafood market and tour boats. Sheepshead Bay is named for the sheepshead, an edible fish once found in the bay's waters.

Much like its neighbor Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay is known for its high concentration of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Many stores and buildings are bilingual with both English and Russian signage. Other ethnic groups include Italians, Irish, Jews, Turkish, Chinese and some Spanish."

Wikipedia explanation of Sheepshead Bay in Broolyn

My Ukrainian mother in-law taught me how to make these little dumplings.  We call them Pierogi and they can be filled with many items but usually with a potato base, and others with meat or cottage cheese.  I did a little research and it seems the Russians have various versions of these little doughy pockets of delicious-ness.  I found this great site called Sheepshead bites  This particular story talks of a Cafe Glecknik in Sheepshead Bay and the many versions of what I call Pierogi -- Varniki and some call it Pelneni.  Here's some Varniki that Cafe Glicknik serves up smothered with onions. Our Ukranian version has morphed over the generations and we make thinly rolled dough stuff with potato, sauerkraut and onion.  The tricky part is the pinching of the dumpling (and it is a carefully guarded technique).  You must crimp the dumpling tightly because it truly ruins the batch if the dough spills out into the boiling water. 
My daughter has perfected the homemade pierogi with the assistance of her grandmother over the years -- and she wrote a story about her experience with cooking pierogi for a the Kids And Cooking website. Every Christmas she makes them with her grandmother and we serve it with a roast -- it's heavy yet delicious and usually once a year suffices, but I'm breaking out the dough for this Russian dinner. 
Black Russians upon arrival started the night
on a festive note

Our delicious menu:
an array of authentic appetizers -- pickled herring, radishes and raw vegetables with salt, Hungarian Salami, blinis, caviar and vodka
pierogi with potato, sauerkraut and onions with carmelized onions and sourcream
lamb kebab
apple sourcream cake
fresh clementines
chocolate vodka

vodka shots between courses, well it got a little fuzzy folks...

singing in Russian!
Diana and Enrique brought Russian trinkets and gifts for all of us

Wine, chocolate vodka, russian vodka and black russians -- quite a combination of spirits!

Rob and Irene's lamb -- I'm showing this kebab raw so you can see the ingenius technique that Rob has used of placing thin slices of fat in between each piece of meat -- the result was delicious barbecued meat that was tender and delicious  
Irene and Rob's True Caucasian Shashlik  Recipe
Rob's lamb was the best meat on a stick I have ever had. 

Diana's infused Borscht - which was like Borscht but on steroids, with chunks of aromatic meat and vegetables, a nice dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped dill.  She took a basic recipe such as the one I've included and added her own twist -- it was delicious!

Gail made this light and moist cake - the perfect accompaniment after a rich meal

freshly peeled clementines

it seems almost every culture has a version of these cookies: mexican, german and russian --
nutty with powdered sugar, light and amazing
Has anyone heard of chocolate vodka? Thank You Gail and Brian for the introduction! It is rich and delicious, and.a perfect way to top off a special evening.
Be sure to look for our April
Greek Night
after a trek to Astoria, Queens --
perfect food for Spring!


quintessence said...

Looks like so much fun!! One of my new year's resolutions was to learn more about Russian history which has always fascinated me but somehow eluded me! Between the specialty drinks and that Chateau Margaux I think I would have been asleep somewhere in the corner - but happy!!

Anonymous said...

Love your food stories. They make me so hungry, can't wait to read about the next dinner.

Eleni said...

That looks so super fun! I totally am going to copy you and do something like that out here! And don't forget to hit me up on what to make for Greek night T! :)

Sundresses and Smiles said...

LOVE YOUR BLOG!! Decorating is a hobby of mine, so I am always inspired by those of you that do it professionally! I've started my own blog-- please stop by and feel free to leave any blogging advice or wisdom you have!

Branislav said...

Okay, now I'm hungry :) In fact, I am off to my kitchen to prepare a pie :)