During this month, some people feel like they never get out of the kitchen, or that they only get out of it when their shopping for more groceries to turn into holiday meals. Yes, there are a lot of holiday meals to prepare between Rosh Hashana and Shmini Atzeres. Even the fast day of Yom Kippur entails food preparation because there is a mitzvah to eat on the day before the fast begins. A festive meal called seduas hamafsekes is eaten in the late afternoon (early enough to end at least 18 minutes before sunset) . A traditional menu for that meal consists of chicken -- not too spicy so that one would not become thirsty later -- and accompaniments. Chicken soup typically precedes the main course.
Instead of matzoh balls or noods, the soup accompaniement for this occasion is kreplach -- a type of wonton. Part of the reason for this custom is the similarity of name of the food: kreplach has the same letters as Kippur, kof, peh, and reish. For the same reason, some of have the tradition of serving them on Purim. Some serve it as on Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of the holiday of Sukkoth, as well because it is also a day associated with sealing the decree for the year.
Making kreplach from scratch can get messy because you have to make a dough and roll it out. So if you are short on time, you can buy it ready or in frozen form. You can also compromise, as I am this year, by buying frozen wonton wrappers and filling them with your own meat filling (Gefen brand is on sale for only $1.50 for a 12 oz package that holds over 40 this week at Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst.) That saves the trouble of kneading the dough and the messiness of rolling it out and cutting the shapes.
That's the secret of holiday cooking: know when to cut corners without sacrificing quality. That could mean buying prepared dough, buying pre-chopped vegetables, or buying something you could serve for dessert if you don't have time to patchken, which is fuss around with many intricate steps. If you really don't have time to prepare the whole meal yourself, you can take shortcuts like that so that you have the food you need without utterly exhausting yourself. Of course, you still have to plan and pace, and it is advisable not to leave everything for the day you need the meal.
If you want to get cracking on kreplach, here's the recipe for the whole thing from scratch. Of course, you can also adapt it to make only the meat filling for purchased dough.
1 lb. flour
1 extra large egg
8-12 oz. warm water
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion diced small
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons oil (if you fry) I do without in a Teflon pan
It makes sense to make the filling first, as you would want the meat to cool down before putting it in the dough. Also you can prepare it ahead and freeze it, allowing time to defrost before putting it in the dough.
Brown the onions and ground beef in a pan. You can do this with oil to fry, or eliminate some fat by putting it all straight into a coated pan.
Mix all the dough ingredients together. I do this in a Kitchen-Aid with the dough hook. Mix until the dought is smooth. Form a ball that you roll out as flat as you can. Cut out circles with a glass of the size you want to use.
Assemble the kreplach by placing one spoonful of the meat filling in the center of each circle and folding it over. Seal the edges. Bring a pot of salted water to boild. Drop in the kreplach. They are done when they float up to the top, which takes 4-5 minutes of cooking. Remove and place them into soup a short while before you're ready to serve it.