Monthly Archives: March 2017

KAS KNEPHLA REVISITED

Over the years, three of my posts have consistently drawn the most visitors. One provides a recipe for West Texas cowboy biscuits along with the description of a cowboy cookout. The second is about my son-in-law’s spin on leftover lamb shanks. By far, the most popular has been a recipe for the unofficial, unacknowledged state dish of North Dakota, kas knephla. (Please note that there are several variants of spelling, but they are commonly known as cheese buttons.)

While unpacking my books during our recent move, I came across a thin red volume entitled “Dorcas’ Treasured Recipes.” So far as I can tell, the book was published around 1955 by members of the Dorcas Society of the Kulm, North Dakota Congregational Church. Kulm is the closest town near my grandmother’s family farm at Wirch, sits in the southeastern part of North Dakota and has a population of around 350. The town was founded in 1892, reached its greatest population of around 700 at the 1930 census, and claims Angie Dickinson as its most noteworthy citizen. (She moved elsewhere at age 11.) Her father apparently worked as an editor of the town newspaper, The Kulm Messenger. Kulm is not too far from Strasburg, the hometown of Lawrence Welk, and likely was an early venue when Welk began his orchestra.

“Dorcas’ Treasured Recipes” is a tidy little book with pages that have become brittle and yellow with age. The  print, published in offset by the Kulm Messenger from a typewritten manuscript, has faded. What has not faded is the spirit of the women who pulled the book together. There are poems, prayers, and recipes that provide insight into the daily lives of these prairie women and testimony to their skills as good cooks.

Leafing through the pages I found several recipes for hamburger casseroles and one for corn dogs. The recipe that caught my eye was contributed by Mrs. Mathilda Brost, titled KAS KNEPHLA. Here is the recipe as published, followed by my recipe for quick and absolutely not authentic North Dakota Cheese Buttons.

KAS KNEPHLA

3 c. flour                                                                      For filling

½ tsp. B.P.                                                                          1 pt. cottage cheese

2 tsp. salt                                                                              yolk of 2 eggs

2 egg whites                                                                         ½ tsp. salt

2/3 c. cold water                                                                 pepper and diced onion

Mix all together into a firm dough. Add more flour if necessary. Divide into 3 parts and roll each out like a pie crust. Cut into about 16 squares. Put about a heaping tsp. filling in each.  Press edges together to seal. Boil a few at a time for 5 min. in about 2 qts. boiling water. Drain and pour the following sauce over: – optional –

Brown a few bread crumbs in a half stick of butter. Or: — Make a sour cream gravy as follows: Melt 2 tbsp. butter, add 1 tbsp. flour. pour in ½ c. milk and 1 c. sour cream, and a little chopped onion.

RECIPE

Quick North Dakota Cheese Buttons

Ingredients

  • 1 pint, small curd cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 ounce package wonton wrappers (about 60 wrappers)
  • 12 ounces bacon, cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup dried ½ inch bread cubes
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter

Method

  1. In a fine-mesh cheesecloth or a fine-meshed large strainer, drain and squeeze as dry as you can the cottage cheese.
  2. Combine the drained cottage cheese, two eggs, salt and pepper.
  3. In batches, spread the wonton wrappers on a flat work surface. Place about 1½ teaspoons of the cottage cheese mixture in the center of each wonton wrapper. Fold into triangles and seal the edges by painting them with water and pressing them firmly between your fingers. Once you have formed the cheese buttons, you should cook them fairly quickly as the cottage cheese will soak through the wrappers. You should be able to make about 40 cheese buttons.
  4. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to the boil, and in batches, boil the cheese buttons for about 5 minutes. They should float to the surface when they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and keep warm in a 200°F oven until you have boiled all of the buttons.
  5. Meanwhile, fry the bacon over medium-low heat until it is lightly browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and stir in the bread cubes, frying them until they are lightly browned. Be careful not to burn them. Combine the bread cubes with the bacon.
  6. In the same pan, melt the butter and stir it until it is browned and fragrant. Stir in the bacon and bread cubes.
  7. Combine the cheese buttons with the bacon, bread and butter mixture. Serve immediately.

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BANANA SPLITS

We have been spending a lot of time lately with our Los Angeles grandchildren. In particular, Susan has been assisting in school-related transportation. All of that is different from when I was growing up. First, few if any kids walk to school, and at least in Southern California there are no orange school buses. Parents line up for blocks in their cars before the schools open in the morning, waiting to drop off their child in a congested delivery area and then creating a neighborhood traffic jam on their way out. The process is repeated – some of it in reverse – at the end of the school day. Second, hours are completely different school to school so that the bell may ring at 7:30 in the high school but not until 8:30 in the middle school.  This makes it easier for parents with kids in more than one school, but it also keeps one on the road for hours. Then, I guess just to keep you on your toes, Tuesday hours are likely to be different from Monday hours – but not every week. We now have a detailed schedule plastered on the kitchen wall, just the same as the one at my daughter’s house. With a schedule like that, you are bound to need a little refreshment in the afternoon, and my wife and grandson are kindred spirits.

They often make a stop at the local outlet of Handel’s Ice Cream. By now they have the routine completely worked out: walk up to the window, study the menu of at least 30 or 40 flavors of ice cream, place your order, and when it is dished up, sit at a garden table in front and eat up. There are more elaborate treats, including milk shakes and sundaes. The most treasured item is the banana split, and when there is need for a special celebration (or maybe not so special) it calls for a banana split.

Handel’s version of the banana split is fairly traditional except that it comes in a plastic disposable dish. One day I was reminiscing about my childhood and ice cream parlors with Naugahyde-covered stools and glass bowls designed especially to hold a banana split. My grandson found that an interesting story (an unusual reaction of one of my grandchildren to one of my stories) and wanted to find one of those glass dishes.

Thus, began my quest. None of the local stores had the bowls in stock, and the owner of the kitchen store allowed as how they probably weren’t made anymore. All I had to do was look on Amazon to find a carton of six bowls made by Libbey Glass priced at about $4 apiece. I ordered them, and they arrived moderately safely with only one broken. They looked like the ones that I remember from my childhood, long with curved-up ends and just big enough to hold a split banana and three scoops of ice cream.  Finding ice cream was easy, and I settled on the classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Sauces took more effort. I am still getting used to the local grocery store, and I couldn’t find sauces, so I decided to make my own. The pineapple was easy, although not as satisfying as the real thing. For the chocolate sauce, I made a cream-predominant ganache, and for the butterscotch, I used an internet recipe from The Perfect Cake (Susan G. Purdy) by way of the Washington Post and the famous blog, Smitten Kitchen.

Since it was my week for dessert at the Sunday family dinner, I made banana splits. They turned out to be a big, big hit with my grandson. Not surprisingly, they turned out to be a big hit with everyone else.

RECIPES

Chocolate Ganache Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (by weight) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (by weight) chocolate chips, chopped (best quality you can find)

Method

  1. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and immediately remove from the heat.
  2. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate chips into the warm milk, shaking the pan gently to make sure the chocolate is in contact with the cream.
  3. Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
  4. Stir until the mixture is smooth and completely combined. Transfer to a container and cool.
  5. Since the sauce contains cream, you should refrigerate if you do not use it immediately. That will make the sauce too thick to pour. You can rewarm it very gently with a 5 to 10 second pulse in the microwave.

Butterscotch Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat
  2. Add the sugar, cream, and salt, whisking to combine completely.
  3. Bring to a low boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

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