This uniquely Jewish food arrived in America with immigrants at the very beginning of the 20th century. It was made popular by Eastern Europeans coming from the Pale of Settlement (mainly from present-day Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine).
Knish is a Yiddish word that was derived from the Ukrainian knysh and Polish knysz. Knishes were originally sold out of pushcarts or hand baskets to picnickers and laborers. The first actual knish bakery in America was founded in New York in 1910 by the still-famous Yonah Schimmel. While the original knishes were hand-crafted works of pride, most are now mass produced and pretty bland.
Knish fillings run the gamut from mashed potatoes with onions to ground beef, kasha, or cheese with fruit.
The United States underwent a knish renaissance in the 2000s largely driven by boutique “knish shops” sprouting up all over the country.
Many of us have tried similar recipes from other cuisines, but this Jewish soul food still has the largest following. You can go with the classics or add other vegetables to your liking. Try spinach, sweet potatoes, sautéed cabbage or a combination of your favorites.
Classic Potato Knishes Filling:
7 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup canola oil
2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl; season with 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper, sugar and garlic. Mash until smooth; set aside.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beat eggs, oil, warm water and salt. Gradually stir in flour. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
Divide the dough in half and roll each piece out to about 9 inches x 13 inches. Slice the rolled dough in half lengthwise, then spread the potato mixture down the center of each strip.
Fold both sides of the strip over the filling and gently press to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling to make six logs.
Cut each log into 2-inch slices and place cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet.
Gently gather the top cut edges of the dough toward the center of the potato mixture to form a bun. Beat egg yolks and water together in a small bowl. Brush each knish with egg yolk mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups leftover beef brisket or ground beef
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Dough recipe above
Heat oil in a large skillet; sauté onion until translucent, stirring often. Add beef and continue cooking until heated through or the beef is browned (if using raw). Remove from heat.
Add potatoes, eggs and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Follow directions above for filling and baking.