“Half pastrami on rye, half chopped liver on hallah, stuffed cabbage, some kasha varnishkes, and a bit of arugula. Extremely Jewish and extremely hungry. The pickle’s funny.”—Herb Smith.
“DOINK.”—Herb Smith “Don’t trust a guy who will work for salami.”—Susie Myerson
This is not your Bubbe’s Kasha Varnishkes. This is my Kasha Varnishkes. This is my take on the classic comfort dish. Same old kasha. Same old varnishkes. With a twist!
I couldn’t bring myself to include just another KV recipe in this book. You can search all over the internet for standard KV. You’ll find some variation of: kasha, bow-tie pasta, onions, egg, schmaltz. I won’t insult you by trying to tweak a regular recipe ever so slightly.
If Herb Smith ordered KV and got this, he’d probably wonder when the owners of the Stage Deli sold to gentiles.
I’m gonna come right out and say it: I don’t get kasha. I’m sure it’s a favorite for some people. Or they grew up with their Bubbe making it. I tried it the conventional way, and I just couldn’t get behind it. It just didn’t have enough flavor for me. I’m all for simple dishes, but the traditional kasha varnishkes just didn’t make it into the rotation.
So, I changed it a little bit. It still has kasha. It still has varnishkes. It still has schmaltz. But it also has some other stuff.
1⁄4 cup (50 g) kasha 4 tablespoons (50 g) rendered chicken fat or olive oil 1⁄4 pound (40 g before prepping) shallots, 1⁄4-inch dice 1⁄2 pound (225 g) mushrooms 1⁄2 cup whole milk 1⁄4 cup (75 g) heavy cream 4 tablespoons fresh thyme 2 cups (100 g) bow-tie pasta
Add the kasha to a sauté pan set over medium heat until toasted. Give them a gentle shake every minute or two to toast evenly. It’ll smell nutty. Nutty is good. Transfer the toasted kasha to a small bowl. Set aside.
Add the oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the shallots to the pan. If they start browning, reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add the mushrooms to the pan, toss or stir to combine, and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté until the mushrooms are browned.
Add the milk, heavy cream, and fresh thyme to the pan, reduce heat to medium, and reduce the liquid by half.
For the pasta
Fill a large saucepan halfway with water. Add salt as needed. The water should taste like the sea. Please salt your pasta water. It’ll make this dish taste so much better.
Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package directions.
Use a spider to transfer the pasta to the pan with the mushrooms. It’s okay if some of the pasta water comes with it. It’ll help season the mushrooms.
Add 1⁄4 cup of the pasta water to the pan and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide among two plates. Garnish with fresh chives and/or more fresh thyme.