FARGO — When people started talking about 2020 like a “dumpster fire,” I initially thought they said “dumpling fire,” which didn’t seem like such a bad thing to me.

After all, how bad could it be to char the pillowy and satisfying dumpling so that it also had buttery, crispy edges?

That could almost taste like the doughlicious kase knoephla my mother used to make, in which homemade dough was wrapped around cottage cheese to produce delightful little “cheese buttons.” You then boiled the bodacious buttons and topped them with crispy breadcrumbs afloat in a sea of melted butter.

As my grandpa used to say when he was really surprised or pleased: “Guten Himmel!”

Or maybe, in this case, Gluten Himmel.

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Another one of Mom’s German-Russian recipes was for plachinda, a sweet dumpling with a spicy pumpkin or apple filling. People fold plachinda all sorts of ways, but Mom often made hers so it resembled a square, pumpkin-stuffed envelope.

Talk about my favorite Priority Mail.

Heck, I even like dumplings that do nothing more than wrap around more dumplings. As a ‘60s and ‘70s mom, Mother sometimes relied on convenience foods like Bisquick to create “cheater” dumplings. I was no snob. I actually loved those salty, soda-y things, especially when they were crispy on the bottom and saturated with chicken gravy.

Either way, there’s something about those chewy wads of homespun comfort that just helps take the chill out of the wind chill.

It says something that so many cultures have some version of a dumpling. The Scandinavians have perhaps the best names for their dumplings, with monikers like klubb, pult, kumle or potetball.

Words like these imply a food not to be taken lightly. It’s a style of food engineered to not only fuel a hard-laboring farmer from noon till dusk, but one that could double as an anvil should you need to drop it from the parapet of your castle to bludgeon torch-wielding invaders.

While growing up, I never suspected that Mom’s plachinda and kase knoephla and even her Bisquick “quicklings” were basically just a gateway drug to total dumplingocity.

Later, I would discover wontons and steamed pork buns and pierogi and many other varieties. So far, I have never met a dumpling I didn’t like.

Most recently, I became acquainted with a Polish potato dumpling known as kluski. My boyfriend’s mom showed us how to make this special dish, which she usually reserves for special occasions like Christmas.

I still don’t know if I’d dare make them on my own, as they seem like the kind of food where you have to rely on touch and your inner Polish guardian angels to determine if they are just right. Now, according to the interwebs, “kluski” is also used to describe a thick Polish noodle, minus the grated potato.

However, LaVonne’s version definitely belongs in dumpling territory. It’s especially tasty when served with Polish sausage and sauerkraut.

LaVonne’s Kluski

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated raw potatoes, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

For frying:

  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ diced onion

Directions:

Using a sieve or colander, press as much moisture out of the peeled, grated potatoes as possible. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on stove and heat to boiling.

Combine grated potatoes with salt, eggs and flour. Start out by mixing in ½ a cup of flour at a time, just in case you’re using a “stronger” flour. (Likewise, you may need to add slightly more flour if you’re using a softer, finer variety.) The dumplings are ready when all ingredients stick together and dumplings don’t fall apart in boiling water. However, the mixture should still be pretty loose and wet, so some shreds of potato will abandon ship and float to the top.

Once water starts boiling, place slightly heaping teaspoon-sized balls of dough into the water to cook. Let cook at a low boil for about 15 to 20 minutes.

About halfway through the dumpling cooking time, melt a stick of butter in a frying pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat, then add onions, cooking until translucent. When dumplings are done boiling, add to the hot pan. Continue cooking over medium-low to medium heat, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned and slightly crispy (anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes).

Swift is a business writer and columnist at Forum News Service. Contact her at tswift@forumcomm.com.