Dash of Grace: A Runza by any other name ...
Whether you call them Runzas, bierocks, or pierogis, and whether they originated in Russia or Philadelphia, and whether they are filled with cabbage, onions, and beef, or fish and rice, they are loved by many people all over the world.
These Runzas remind me of “pasties,” which sparked an extensive discussion in this column a few years ago, lasting 3 weeks, as readers recalled real and sometimes funny stories about them.
According to the letters in readers corner, a pastie, pronounced like “past” ie, and not paste-ie, is a kind of vegetable and meat pie that the miners up north took into the mines with them for their lunch. Some still do. One man described the pasties as a “pot pie without the pot” or sort of a portable beef stew folded into a pie dough and baked to a golden brown.
Basically, a Runza is most commonly a piece of yeast bread rolled thin into a circle or rectangle, then stuffed with a filling, such as those mentioned above, or you can make up a filling, and wrap the dough around it, pinching it around the edges to seal. Then you brush the whole thing in melted butter and bake it, seam side down in a pan, until it is golden brown.
Now I tried to make these because it sounded so delicious (and it was) but I did have a few problems. I will tell you about those so you can figure out a better way to deal with them.
First, I really had to stretch the dough to get the filling covered. And yet, when they came out of the oven, the filling appeared to have shrunk and I had mostly bread. It appeared the yeast dough puffed up too much and swallowed up the filling.
My thought is to use a different dough, such as a biscuit or pie crust dough. However, will it still be a Runza? Or will it then be a pastie? I also could use less yeast in the dough, but then I would have to make the dough from scratch. The recipe says to use frozen bread dough, which is a lot easier.
So, dear readers, I know I am supposed to be teaching you about cooking, but, maybe we could switch places for a week. If you have any suggestions or ideas, send them to me and mark your letter or card, Readers Corner.
Here is the recipe I used for my Runzas:
Beef, cabbage, and onion Runzas
Delicious bundles filled with beef, cabbage, and onions
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup sliced yellow onions (peeled, cut in half and sliced)
1/3 cup canola oil
1⁄2 pound of lean ground beef
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
12 Rhodes Texas frozen dinner rolls, thawed at room temperature
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large skillet, cook cabbage and onion in oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and steam over low heat for 30 minutes. Set aside. Brown ground beef in another large skillet; drain. Add cabbage and onion mixture, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper; cook for an additional 20 minutes.
Flatten each Texas roll into a 6-inch circle; divide filling among the 12 circles. Place 1 tablespoon cheese on top of each; pull edges around filling and pinch to close.
Place on a large greased baking sheet, pinched side down. Brush melted butter on top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until brown.
The ones I made were golden brown in 25 minutes.
Yield: 1 loaf
12 frozen dinner rolls, thawed and risen
1 pound lean ground beef
1⁄2 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup fresh mushrooms
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
3 tablespoons fresh sweet bagel, chopped, or 1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Combine rolls to form a ball and roll into a 10-by-20-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef; drain. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are tender. Melt butter in a small pan. Add mushrooms and saute for 1 or 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, cream cheese and basil to the beef mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove plastic wrap from dough. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Spread beef mixture evenly lengthwise, over middle third of dough. Fold sides over meat mixture, tuck ends under. Place on a large baking sheet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. With a serrated knife, make 1/4-inch deep diagonal slits every 1 1/2 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaf is golden brown.
Chicken cheese bundles
Prep: 36 minutes
Total: 65 minutes
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
6 small boneless chicken breast halves (1 1⁄2 pounds) pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
10 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, heated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, until blended. Spread evenly onto chicken breasts. Starting at one of the short ends of each breast, roll up chicken tightly, completely enclosing filling. Use wooden toothpicks to secure if needed. Set aside.
Beat egg in shallow bowl. Mix remaining Parmesan cheese and cracker crumbs in pie plate. Dip chicken bundles in egg, then roll in crumb mix. Place seam sides down, in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, spread with cooking spray.
Bake for a half hour, or until chicken is cooked through. Served topped with spaghetti sauce and remaining mozzarella cheese.
Beef brisket sandwiches
1 pound brisket, trimmed
1 1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1⁄2 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon paprika
8 hard sandwich rolls (Kaiser or French)
Cook the brisket: Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brisket, brown on all sides, and transfer to a slow cooker.
Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well. Slow-cook, covered, until the meat is very tender -- about 8 hours. Remove the meat, place it on a cutting board, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Reserve the sauce.
Carve brisket into thin slices and divide it among Kaiser rolls topped with reserved sauce. Serve warm.
Tip of the week: After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor.