Prep 30 mins
Cook 15 mins
Cepelinai are one of the favorite dishes of Lithuania, but are quite labor-intensive to make. You have to grate the potatoes, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. I was intrigued by recipes of this name that I found in a number of Lithuanian blogs, which literally translates as "Lazyman's cepelinai", and inspired by them, developed this recipe. This recipe is for two adults, two dumplings a person as a main dish, but children would probably just eat one. The texture is very reminiscent of the potato cepelinai, but you can easily make these for dinner. I keep forgetting to time myself, but I'm sure this doesn't take me more than about 30 minutes.
- 8 ounces farmers' cheese (see Note)
- 6 tablespoons farina (cream of wheat)
- 3 tablespoons potato starch
- 1 egg
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- additional potato starch
- 1 teaspoon butter or 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 -4 ounces ground meat
- 1 pinch thyme or 1 pinch allspice
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
- 1 couple of grinds black pepper
- 3 slices lean bacon
- 2 medium mushrooms, chopped
- 2 -3 tablespoons butter
- In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, farina, potato starch, egg and salt. I first stir with a spoon, but then knead it right in the bowl with my hand, to ensure that everything is thoroughly mixed. Cover and let it stand while you make the filling. (Letting it stand about 10 or 15 minutes lets the farina hydrate and I think makes the dough hold together better).
- Saute the onion in the oil in a small saucepan until translucent.
- Add to the remaining filling ingredients in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.
- Divide into four portions and form into small sausage shapes. Cover.
- Sprinkle two or three tablespoons of potato starch onto a large plate and set aside.
- Fill 2 or 3 quart saucepan with water, add salt, and bring to a boil while making the dumplings.
- Divide the dough into four portions - I do this right in the bowl, just cutting through it with a knife.
- Dampen your hands with cool water before forming each dumpling. Take one portion of the dough and flatten it on the palm of one hand into an oval.
- Place on portion of the filling onto the dough and form the dough around it into an oval shape - it's important to make the exterior very smooth, without any cracks or seams - this will keep them dumplings from splitting as they cook.
- Place the dumpling onto the potato-starch-sprinkled plate and roll it around to dredge in the starch.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- When they are all done, carefully place each dumpling into the pot of boiling water. They should fit without crowding or overlapping. If there is any potato starch left on the plate, just scrape it right into the water, as well.
- Let the water return to a boil and reduce it to a slow boil - more than a simmer, but not a full out boil.
- Cook for about 10 minutes after it returns to a boil.
- While these cook, make the sauce.
- Chop the bacon and saute it in a small saucepan.
- As it starts to get translucent, add the mushrooms and butter, and saute until cooked through.
- Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, plate and cover with sauce.
- Note1: "Varske" is what we call farmers' cheese in Lithuanian. Tvarog is widely available in many places and is essentially the same. You want to use one that is whole milk or made from not less than 2% milk. Leaner cheese will not hold together as well - probably you would need more potato starch.
- Note2: The mushrooms are not traditional in the sauce, but I like them, and that way I am not using as much bacon. However, you can serve with just melted butter and sour cream, or any similar sauce that you might have in your files. To reduce calories, you can just saute some mushrooms and perhaps have a little sour cream on the side.
- Note3: I've made this with both ground beef and ground pork. I intend to make a cheese filling also, and I think a mushroom filling would also be very good, if you want to keep this vegetarian.
- Note on Servings: We will eat two each, with that making up our entire meal. If you serve with soup, some veggies, etc., in a more usual fashion, you can probably serve 3 or 4 people.
- Cheese filling: Take about 4 ounces of the farmers' cheese and place in a small bowl. Add the minced green top of one scallion, a pinch of salt and about 1 tbl of cooked minced bacon (I just take from the sauce). You might need a little of the bacon grease to help mix it together. Minced mint or tarragon is traditional, but I had none. I mixed it well and divided into six sections. I then divided the dough into six sections. Cheese filled dumplings are traditionally smaller. Make then as above, but form them into round balls - again, the shape is traditional when using a cheese filling. They will take a minute or two less to cook.