Vareniki with QKatie
Katie Quinn is a jet-setting video journalist currently based in London, but we knew her first as the author of Short Stack Edition’s 25th Volume, “Avocados.” After watching her travel around the world to interview and cook with chefs, bloggers and friends, we know her now as the quirkiest storyteller on Youtube. Her talent knows no ends. She’s a trained chef, terrific in front of the camera, and eager to share what she learns.She shoots, edits and publishes her own work and she’s crazy good at it.
A few months ago she let us know that she would be shooting a cooking video with Julia Frey, the photographer, writer and avid home cook behind Vikalinka, a London-based food blog with Russian roots. They had plans to make vareniki, one of Russia’s beloved pocket foods. Julia’s legendary vareniki won the hearts of her future in-laws and with a bacon-potato-caramelized onion filling, she had us at Russian pocket.
Given the distance, there wasn’t much we could do with Katie and Julia to collaborate, but we were excited to be included. So while those two filmed a cooking video on vareniki in London, Lauren and I tagged along stateside by styling a photoshoot and creating cinemagraphs to show what it looks like to make vareniki.
Lauren and I shoot together any chance we get. But I live in Texas and she lives in North Carolina, so our own collaborative process is based on a lot of phone calls, texts, a shared Dropbox folder, Google Drive and sometimes Trello. Our piggy-back on Katie and Julia’s vareniki video is the first time Lauren and I have made and documented the same recipe at the same time in different states. She shot hers the day before I did, so I was able to refer to the cinemagraphs she made to show how to crimp the edges of the vareniki. (Which helped, but hers are still much prettier than mine!)
While this may not seem like an efficient use of our time when you consider the amount of work that goes into making and shooting pockets, our creative workflow with each other is a blessing. We fold many pockets, brainstorm photoshoot concepts and work with amazing contributors worldwide. This way, the distance between us seems a lot smaller. It’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking of beautiful things, Alison Roman (another Short Stack author!) just released her newest cookbook, “Dining In” and it is a real looker. I’ve only gotten as far as her “Decidedly Not-Sweet Granola” and it’s already made a very special place in my heart. That savory crunch also made a very special place on our table, sprinkled over Julia’s vareniki filled with a bacon-flecked mashed potatoes, topped with homemade crème fraîche and a smattering of dill.
Julia’s vareniki wouldn’t be complete without a proper Russian sauerkraut, so I made hers, though not without resisting the urge to add a spoonful of the very active jalapeno pepper mash bubbling away in my kitchen right now. This was my first foray into homemade kraut and I am floored by how easy it was to make. And oh, how tasty! After three days of fermenting, the cabbage and carrots were crunchy and tangy and the spice from the pepper mash was just enough to satiate my spicy Texas palette. I forgot to add sugar, so the recipe on Vikalinka may be on the sweeter side, but the general approach of adding salt to cabbage and vegetables to preserve them and create a perfect environment for lacto-fermentation to occur is much easier than I imagined. Thank you, Julia, for inspiring me to finally make homemade sauerkraut!
On the subject of fermentation, Katie mentioned that Julia’s take on Russian sour cream is that the Russian version is more like crème fraîche. I added a couple tablespoons of buttermilk to heavy cream and left it in a covered glass jar on the counter for about 18 hours and I’ll be damned if I didn’t come home to a perfect jar of crème fraîche this afternoon!
We want TWINAP to be a way to look at the world through the lens of a pocket, so I hope this time around you will see two bad bitches in London who have found a way to make a living doing what they love, a cookbook you must have, and a tiny peek into our creative process. Happy cooking!