A knish has to be one of the best food inventions of all times. Whoever thought to turn comforting caramelized onion mashed potatoes into something you can grab and eat, holding it in your hands, was a genius.
Knish is a Yiddish word meaning pastry. Knishes came to American via Jewish Immigrants in the 1800’s, so New York City (my home town) became the land of knishes. They were first sold in push carts, then knisheries and Jewish delis. Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery is the most famous NYC destination for knishes. It opened in 1910 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and has been there, selling knishes, for over 100 years and counting.
Whenever I eat a knish or even think of one, it evokes food memories from my childhood. Eating a knish was not usually a planned thing. It was more like an amazing discovery that would magically appear before my eyes just when I was feeling famished. My Dad would take me out to lunch to a Jewish deli. We’d stroll into the restaurant and suddenly dozens of knishes were before me, lined up in the deli case at my eye-level, strategically placed, I’m sure, to inspire the impulse buy. When you’re hungry and you spot a knish, your dreams have come true.
I developed these appetizer spinach and potato knishes for the Idaho Potato Commission. My goal was to create an easy recipe for a bite-sized knish that would be delicious and festive enough for any occasion.
I’ve tested them out many times on friends and family to rave reviews. I even had the occasion to serve them on a silver platter with creme fraiche and finely minced red onion.
These mini spinach potato knishes are inspired by the Yonah Shimmel type knishes of my childhood but they are not made in the traditional way. The more traditional knish recipe is quite an undertaking. It takes about three hours because the potato filling is wrapped in dough that has to be mixed, rested, rolled, filled, shaped and baked.
Instead of making dough and stuffing it with potato filling, I added a small amount of flour (or matzo meal for Passover) right in with the filling, just enough flour to hold the knishes together and give them that authentic knish taste – without compromising the fluffy texture.
These mini knishes are best served fresh from the oven. If you want to do some of the work in advance, the potato-spinach mixture can be made up to a day ahead and kept covered in the fridge. Then roll and bake just before serving.
If you’re celebrating Passover next week, these would make a perfect pre seder appetizer.
Here’s the recipe for mini spinach potato knish appetizer. I hope if you make these you’ll come back and leave a comment and let me know what you think.
- 2 pounds Idaho® russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (4 medium)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil, such as canola
- 2 tablespoons butter or schmaltz (chicken fat)
- 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced (1½ pounds)
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup matzo meal or all purpose flour
- 5 ounces spinach leaves, slivered or roughly chopped
- Salt and Pepper
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup finely minced red onion, optional
- Preheat oven to 375ºF and set oven racks in the top and bottom of the oven.
- Place potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt in a pot and cover with cold water by an inch. Bring to a boil, then gently boil for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain, mash well, and set aside to cool.
- Heat oil and butter (or schmaltz) over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, to brown. Scrape onions into the bowl of a food processor. (Don't clean the skillet - you'll use it for the spinach.) Add eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper to the onions and pulse several times until the onions are finely chopped. Scrape the onion-egg mixture into the bowl with the potatoes. Add matzoh meal. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the chopped spinach to the skillet and sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until wilted (a minute or two) Add to the potato mixture and stir through.
- Spray or lightly oil two baking sheet pans. Scoop up a heaping tablespoon of potato mixture, roll it into a ping-pong sized ball, place it on the prepared pan. Repeat until you've used up all the potato mixture. You should get about 50 pieces. Push your thumb down on the center of each ball to flatten it slightly and make a depression - similar to how you'd make thumbprint cookies.
- Bake knishes for 30 minutes in the top and bottom of the oven, switching the position of the trays half way through. Turn the oven up to broil and let the top tray brown for 2-3 minutes. Remove it and set the other tray on the top shelf and let it brown for 2-3 minutes.
- Set knishes out on a platter or serving tray. Dollop a little sour cream in the center of each knish and serve.