Lithuanian potato-meat dumplings are known as zeppelins or cepelinai because of their shape.
These are hearty affairs that take some time to make but are well worth the effort. Another variety is the potato-cheese cepelina.
- For the Meat Filling:
- 1 pound ground pork (or 1/3 pound pork, 1/3 pound beef, 1/3 pound veal)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large beaten egg
- For the Dumplings:
- 8 large Idaho potatoes (peeled and finely grated – not shredded)
- 2 large Idaho potatoes (peeled, boiled and riced)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and finely grated)
- 1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
- For the Gravy:
- 1/2 pound bacon (diced)
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 cup sour cream
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (if necessary)
Make the Meat Filling
In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and egg until well incorporated.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Dumplings
Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the grated potatoes so they don't turn brown. Place them in a fine-mesh cheesecloth or cotton dish towel and twist over a large bowl to get rid of the excess water. Pour off the water, reserving the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
Unwrap the cheesecloth and place potatoes in the bowl with the potato starch you reserved from the bottom of the bowl. Add the riced boiled potatoes, grated onion, and 1 teaspoon salt or to taste. Mix well.
Put a large stockpot of water on to boil. To form the zeppelins, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand. Place 1/4 cup or more of meat mixture in the center and, using slightly dampened hands, fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape, sealing well. Continue until both mixtures are gone.
Cook the Dumplings
Carefully lower dumplings into salted, boiling water to which 1 tablespoon of cornstarch has been added (to prevent dumplings from falling apart). Make sure water returns to the boil and continue boiling for 25 minutes.
Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon or strainer, drain briefly on a clean dish towel and place on a heated platter.
Make the Gravy
While the dumplings are boiling, make the gravy. In a medium skillet, fry the bacon and chopped onion until tender.
Drain and combine with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk if necessary. Ladle dumplings with gravy or pass the gravy at the table.