Ask Evan: How Do I Make Grandma’s Kasha?

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askevan_header_2Every Tuesday I answer a question from a Good Food listener.  You can email me a question, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here.  Today’s question is from Ellen:

I want to make KASHA just like Grandma. Grandma’s not with us anymore, so I can’t ask what her special spin was on this comforting dish! Grandma’s kasha was soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. She never mixed it with varnishkas (bowtie noodles). It had a beefy and oniony flavor. Mmmmmmmmm!

Kasha like Grandma made is a very tasty dish if your Bubbe was a good cook. Kasha is buckwheat groats, that are mixed with an egg, pan toasted then steamed with onions and broth like a pilaf. If you leave out the beaten egg or the toasting you lose; you get gummy, stuck together and bland tasting grain. If done correctly you get individual, nutty, addicting buckwheat groat (I love that word) pilaf. Also, anything Jewish tasting needs plenty of onion and some fat.   Freshly rendered chicken fat is best, butter is equally tasty but not kosher if you’re serving the pilaf with meat. (Keep reading for my cooking method.)

So I start by mixing 1 cup of whole groats with one beaten egg. Be sure the egg coats every individual grain. Then I cook a whole onion in my chosen fat until it’s wilted with a few dark spots. I then remove the onion from the pan. I add the egg coated groats and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the grain is dry and separate. I add the onion back to the pan with a bit of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. I then add 2 cups of broth (I usually use chicken) to the pan, I stir and after bringing the mixture to a boil cover and turn the heat to low. Steam until dry and fluffy, like you would rice. It’s quick, after 10 minutes turn heat off, remove the cover and fluff with a fork. Wrap a towel around the lid and cover and let the steamed kasha sit for an additional 5 minutes.

I often make double this quantity to keep in the fridge and add to salads.  Here are some more recipe ideas from Epicurious and the NY Times’ Mark Bittman.