What is kurnik?
Kurnik (курник in Cyrillic) is a traditional pie from Russia made from chicken, mushrooms, rice and chopped hard-boiled egg, which is generally served at weddings or festive events in the country, especially at the time of the Feast of the Holy Trinity.
Kurnik is nicknamed “chicken pirog”, where the pirog is a sweet pie made from cheese and fruits such as apples, plums and berries. The two pies look alike, only the stuffing they contain differs. It is also called “wedding pirog” or “tsar pirog”.
What is the origin of kurnik?
Kurnik is a pie originating from the south of Russia and more particularly from the Cossack territories. It is reported that the tsars were fond of it. When the kurnik is prepared for a wedding, the decoration of the pie is generally based on flowers sculpted in the dough, thus symbolizing love, beauty and benevolence.
Today, kurnik is one of the emblematic dishes of the famous Café Pushkin in Moscow. This pie symbolizes a bit the time of great Russian cuisine served on royal tables. It is also a very popular dish thanks to its festive appearance. Cutting a pie at the table is always a moment of joy, as the aromas escape when it is cut and the composition of the different fillings is finally revealed.
How to make kurnik
As is often the case for the creation of pies, the stages are numerous and require organization. It begins with the preparation of the dough, which is similar to that of the pierogi, a dough similar to a brioche and little leavened.
Separately, crepes are prepared, which will serve to isolate the different layers of stuffing and protect the dough from humidity to prevent it from becoming soggy as it cooks, as the stuffing produces steam.
A first layer of stuffing is made from rice flavored with parsley to which a chopped hard-boiled egg is added. The second stuffing is made from cooked chicken breast, then minced and mixed with butter to make it more creamy. Finally the last stuffing is a duxelles of mushrooms, that is to say a mince of cooked mushrooms flavored with onion.
Once it has risen, the dough can be rolled in two rolls and the assembly of the kurnik can begin. This is done in layers. The second roll is glued, slightly moistening the dough. The kurnik can then be decorated with shapes of leaves, stars and hearts.
The chimney is also used to let the steam escape and thus keep a crunchy dough. Once the pie is brushed with an eggwash, it can be placed in the oven.
Once baked, it has to rest for 15 minutes in the oven after it’s been turned off. This time allows the dough to finish baking without the stuffing inside it drying out. The kurnik can thus be cut into parts and served hot at the table.
Some people prefer a softer dough. In that case, just wrap the kurnik in a few minutes in plastic wrap. As the heat is being trapped in it, it will have the effect of slightly soaking the dough.
What are the variants of kurnik?
If the kurnik is usually stuffed with chicken meat, it can also be stuffed with turkey. Kasha, hulled buckwheat, can replace rice. Kasha is also found in salmon coulibiac, the preparation of which is similar to that of kurnik, since coulibiac also contains crepes and eggs.
In the past, kurnik that was served on large tables was decorated with boiled rooster crests, as was the custom in France. The kurnik is also close to the various French layered pies. It indeed resembles pithiviers, a flaky pie of game birds often containing mushrooms and foie gras.
- 4 cups flour sifted
- 2 eggs
- 6 tablespoons butter soft
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup flour sifted
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for the crepe maker
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup white rice
- 1¼ cup water lukewarm
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 oz. fresh mushrooms peeled and finely chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon milk
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and dig a well in the center.
- Add sugar, baking powder, and eggs.
- Using the dough hook, start kneading, gradually incorporating the milk.
- Knead for 2 minutes, then gradually incorporate the soft butter then the salt.
- Knead until obtaining a soft and homogeneous dough which separates from the edges of the bowl.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it stand at room temperature while the stuffing is being prepared.
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, flour and salt and stir well.
- Mix for 1 minute in a food processor.
- Brush the bottom of a crêpe pan with vegetable oil and heat it.
- Bake 4 to 5 very thin crepes. To do this, pour a ladle of dough and immediately spread it over the entire surface of the pan. Cook each crepe for 1 minute per side.
- Cut the chicken into pieces and wash it.
Place it in a Dutch oven and cover it with water.
- Bring to a boil, immediately remove the foam that forms using a skimmer.
- Add salt, cover, and cook over low heat for 40 minutes.
- Drain the chicken and let it cool.
- Finely chop the chicken with a knife.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter.
- Season the finely chopped chicken with melted butter.
- Add salt if necessary.
- Add the rice into a saucepan, then add the warm water.
- Bring to a boil and season with salt.
- Cook for only 8 minutes (the rice should be barely crunchy), then drain and transfer it to a bowl.
- Add the butter and mix well.
- Cover the rice and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Then add the parsley and the hard-boiled egg cut into pieces and mix.
- Melt half the butter in a pan.
- Fry the mushrooms on high heat, season with salt and stir constantly until they are golden.
- In another pan, melt the other half of the butter.
- Sauté the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Mix the mushrooms and onions.
- Preheat the oven to 365 F (185°C).
- Divide the dough in half.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin in two circles to a thickness of ½ inch (0.5 cm).
In the center of a circle of dough, place a crepe and add the dome-shaped rice stuffing on it and about 2 inches (5 to 6 cm) from the edges.
- Then place another pancake on top and press down slightly by hand.
- Place the chicken stuffing on top, then add a crepe on top and lightly pack by hand.
- Finally add the mushroom stuffing and place one or two last pancakes on top and tap lightly by hand.
- Place the second circle of dough on top.
- Press the edges and cut the excess dough all around with a pasta roller or knife so that it is even.
- Fold the edges inward giving a twisted shape.
- The kurnik should resemble a dome.
- With the excess dough, make some decorations in the shape of hearts, leaves and stars and place them on top of the kurnik.
- Above the kurnik and in the center, using a bottle cap make a hole, and, with a little dough, form a small twist and place it all around the hole.
- Using a toothpick, gently pierce the surface of the kurnik in 4 or 5 areas.
- Mix the milk and the egg and, using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the kurnik with this mixture.
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and let the kurnik sit in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Take the kurnik out of the oven and wrap it in plastic wrap for 10 minutes so that it softens a bit, then serve.