Pirozhki are Russian buns, usually individual-sized and baked. As with varenyky, you can fill them with pretty much anything you want — in fact, you could even use the exact same fillings for pirozhki and varenyky. It’s not rare, however, to find more diverse recipes, some of then even in classic French cookbooks. Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, for example, counts a dozen variations called piroguis (not to be confused with Polish pierogi), and the Larousse Gastronomique has a few similar pirojkis, many of which take some serious culinary license with the real deal.
Whether you just buy the meat or try to kill the animals yourself, game is back in season! Here are some recipes you might want to try:
- Have a whole wild pheasant meal with Wild Pheasant Rillettes followed by Pheasant à la Russe, a delicious paupiette in a cream sauce.
- If you like more gamy birds, try my Partridge Breast and Dumplings in Tokaji Sauce.
- For large game, I recommend the Wild Boar Bouchées and Wild Boar Filet Mignon and Smoked Lentils, or the more traditional Roasted Rack of Venison in Cider Sauce.
- Of course, I have to mention my flagship dish, the Vladimir Poutine, a decadent mess of fries, cheese curds and bear stew.
- And if you make your own recipe, don’t forget Red Currant Jelly!
Wild boar is eaten all across Eastern Europe, from eastern Germany to Russia. It is a common charge in heraldry, displayed on the coat of arms of Ebersbach in Saxony. Boar hunting was also one of Brezhnev’s favorite pastimes. Filet mignon, the tenderloin, is one of the only cuts of wild boar that is best enjoyed rare or medium rare, a welcome change from the usual boar stews and sausages.
Although generally cultivated somewhere else, lentils are widely consumed in Eastern Europe, particularly in soups like this one. The lentils here don’t quite form a soup, but they should be liquid enough to be used as a sauce for the meat. To make the smoked pork stock I am using below, you can either buy smoked ham hocks, or save the bones from smoked pork ribs.
Yields 6 servings
1 qt smoked pork stock
8 oz lentils
2 oz carrot, brunoise
2 oz celery, brunoise
2 oz celery root, brunoise
2 oz cipollini onion, brunoise
leaves from 4 thyme springs
black pepper, ground
1 1/2 oz butter
- Reduce the smoked pork stock by 1/3 and reserve.
- Put the lentils in a large saucepan, add just enough water to cover them, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately, drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Return to the saucepan and add the reduced pork stock, carrot, celery, celery root, onion, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer on minimum heat for about 1 1/2 hours, until the lentils are very tender. If all the liquid is absorbed, add a bit of water.
- Stir in the butter and serve.
Wild boar filet mignon
Yields 6 servings
4 wild boar tendeloins, 2-3 lb total
black pepper, ground
1 oz whisky
- Cut each tenderloin into 3 pieces, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté in a hot pan with olive oil until brown on all sides, then add the whisky. Remove the pan from the heat and let rest for about 5 minutes, turning the meat once. If you like your meat cooked more, finish in a 350 F oven to reach the desired doneness.
- Serve on a bed of smoked lentils.
A bouchée is an individual basket of puff pastry, like a small vol-au-vent. The first bouchée was supposedly invented by Marie Leszczyńska, the Polish princess wife of Louis XV. The original bouchée à la reine is filled with mushrooms, chicken, veal quenelles and sweetbreads in a cream sauce.
This iteration was inspired by a dish we ate in Prague many years ago, at U Modré Kachničky. In small, beautiful rooms richly filled with antiques, U Modré Kachničky (The Blue Duckling in English) offers a wide selection of duck and wild game dishes. We once drove all the way from Budapest just to have dinner there!
In my recipe, I think it’s better to prepare the braised wild boar shanks one or two days in advance. However, the bouchées need to be baked just before serving.
Braised wild boar shanks
Yields 4 servings
2 lb wild boar shanks
8 oz onion, large dice
4 oz carrot, large dice
4 oz turnip, large dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 rosemary sprig (about 2″ long)
2 thyme sprigs
6 oz red wine
- Season the shanks with salt and pepper, and sauté with olive oil in a pot over high heat until brown on all sides. Reserve the meat.
- In the same pot, sauté the onion, carrot, turnip and garlic with some more olive oil until golden brown. Add the rosemary, thyme, cloves and wine, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Return the meat to the pot, add enough water to cover, and bring back to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook in a 200 F oven until very tender, for about 3 hours. Let cool for 30 minutes.
Wild boar bouchées
Yields 4 servings
braised wild boar shanks
3 oz pancetta, medium dice
4 1/2 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 oz heavy cream
2 oz green peas
1 lb puff pastry
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
1 oz butter
- Take the shanks out of the braise liquid. Discard the bones and fat, and reserve about 12 oz of the meat, keeping the rest for another recipe. Strain the braise liquid and reserve.
- In a saucepan, sauté the pancetta over high heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add the braise liquid, and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the heavy cream and green peas. Shred the meat between your fingers, add to the saucepan and reserve.
- Roll the puff pastry into a rectangle about 3″ thick. Cut out 8 discs using a 3 1/2″ cutter. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Cut out the centers of 4 of the discs using a 2 3/4″ cutter. You should now have 4 small discs, 4 large discs, and 4 rings. Mix the egg yolk and the milk, and brush the discs and rings with this eggwash. Place the rings on top of the large discs, pressing lightly to adhere. Prick the centers of these bouchées and bake together with the small discs (the lids) in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and remove the excess dough inside the bouchées.
- Reheat the meat mixture and stir in the butter. Fill the bouchées and serve immediately.