There’s nothing so simple, so delicious and so Polish as kopytka. Kopytka (koh-PIT-kah) literally translates as “little hooves” but more often than not they’re called “lazy dumplings.”
“Someone says Poland, you think ‘pierogi’. True, a majority of foreigners associate them with Polish cuisine. But Poland is the home of dozens, if not hundreds, of other dumplings too.” —Magdalena Kasprzyk-Chevriaux, A Foreigner’s Guide to Polish Dumplings, 2015
For the uninitiated, kopytka are a form of Polish dumpling that have far more in common with Italian gnocchi than with their more popular stuffed brethren, the pierogi. Don’t get me wrong…If you pressed me hard enough I’d have to admit that my Desert Island Food would have to be pierogi, but lately kopytka have me reconsidering. Making a batch of pierogi can be rewarding but it can also take a herculean effort. Kopytka, by comparison, are far simpler to make and can be just as tasty and impressive.
Unlike the over the top sauce and garnishes I offer here, kopytka are usually a far more casual affair. Some folks are happy to top theirs with only fried onions and/or thick cut bacon slices while others slather theirs with mushroom gravies, chopped parsley and toasted breadcrumbs. Further alterations can extend all the way down to the kopytka themselves: some family recipes call for eggs, cheese and even butter to be thrown into the mix. I prefer to make mine completely vegan so that the finished product can be diet-friendly to as many as possible (dependent upon your choice of sauce/toppings, of course).
The best part about kopytka is their minimal nature. You don’t need to have a ton of special ingredients on hand to whip up a special dinner. From three or four lowly potatoes (and a bit of flour) a main dish can form. Never underestimate how much you can do with so little.
Kopytka with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce & Burnt Walnut Powder
PREP TIME: 1 HOUR ● COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES ● SERVES 4-6
BURNT WALNUT POWDER
- 1 cup shelled walnut halves or pieces
- 1 scant pound russet potatoes (about 3-4 medium potatoes)
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Semolina flour, for dusting and forming
BLUE CHEESE CREAM SAUCE
- 3 ounces Point Reyes Farmstead Original or Bay Blue Cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Maldon finishing salt
- Burnt walnut powder
- Fresh thyme
TO MAKE THE BURNT WALNUT POWDER
- Place the walnuts in a blender or food processor and blend/process until you get a powder with some slightly larger, chunky bits.
- Heat a skillet over high heat, and once hot carefully pour your walnut powder into the pan.
- Stir and/or shake the pan constantly to ensure that your walnut powder burns evenly.
- Once it has been burned to your liking, transfer to a sealable jar and set aside.
TO MAKE THE KOPYTKA
- Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large soup pot. Cover with water.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until a skewer goes easily and cleanly through the middle of each of your potatoes, approximately 30 minutes (times will vary).
- Move the potatoes to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Allow to cool.
- Once cool, peel the potatoes then either mash with a fork or run them through a potato ricer.
- Put the potato mash into a large mixing bowl and add the all purpose flour and salt. Using your hands, mix to thoroughly combine and then transfer to a surface lightly dusted with semolina flour.
- Knead with your hands several times until a smooth, soft dough forms, then cover tightly with a clean, damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for half an hour.
- Take the dough and divide it into eight equal portions. Roll out each portion into snake-like logs about ½ inch in diameter.
- Cut the logs on a diagonal into one inch long pieces and put them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Do not allow the formed kopytka to touch or they will stick together. Lightly dust with more semolina flour and set aside.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to boil. Move along and start up the blue cheese cream sauce while you wait.
TO MAKE THE BLUE CHEESE CREAM SAUCE
- Put the butter and blue cheese into a saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow to completely melt and then slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stir to thoroughly combine and then reduce heat to the lowest possible setting.
You can save time by making both the burnt walnut powder and kopytka in advance. The burnt walnut powder can last for a few weeks in a cool, dark space sealed in a jar…though I would recommend giving them a fresh toasting in a hot skillet before each use once they have been stored this way.
The kopytka can be frozen: first freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet and then store them in a freezer friendly ziplock bag. They can last for up to a month in the freezer, but they will require a few minutes of additional cooking time.