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For your Kūčios table

Let’s Cook Lithuanian
with Dana Siliūnas

The following recipes could be used for the traditional Lithuanian Christmas-eve meal, which is eaten after sundown on Christmas Eve. The Lithuanian word for Christmas Eve is Kūčios (pronounced Koo-chios). At the end of the Kūčios meal, the family goes off to midnight mass at church. There are usually 12 dishes in a Kūčios meal to symbolize the 12 apostles. The meal starts when the first star can be seen; this symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. Although the Kūčios meal is meatless (Advent, the season of penance, continues until midnight), it is still festive and delicious. The tradition of Kūčios, though centuries old, is still current in Lithuania and in countries where Lithuanians live. There is no fixed set of rules for what the 12 dishes must be; the items in the meal change somewhat according to location and availability of ingredients. Nevertheless, all of the dishes are traditional, and in addition there are many traditions for the serving of the meal. For example, some people place straw under the tablecloth to symbolize the manger in which Christ was born. Most families set an extra place, for the stranger who might be passing by, or for a departed family member.

FISH DUMPLINGS
Žuvies kukuliai

2 lbs. fish (cod, pike, flounder or other)
2 slices white bread, soaked in milk
3 onions, finely chopped
½ cup milk
2 Tbsps. butter
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
6 Tbsps. bread crumbs
Salt, pepper and marjoram to taste
Oil for frying
Clean fish, bone, filet, and grind. Fry onion in butter, add to ground fish. Soak bread in milk, squeeze dry and add to ground fish. Bear eggs, mix with sour cream, seasonings and add to fish mixture. Make medium sized fish dumplings, roll in bread crumbs, and fry in hot oil until crisp and browned. The fish dumplings can also be cooked, about 15 minutes, in salted water. Hot fish dumplings are eaten with cooked potatoes and dill pickles. Fish dumplings are also eaten cold. They are then served with horseradish mixed with sour cream or finely chopped dill pickles in sour cream.

HERRING ROLLS
Silkių rolmopsai

2 herrings
2 onions, medium size
1 carrot
1 Tbsp. oil
4 cloves
2 cups water
6 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 dill pickles, cut in quarters lengthwise
Soak herring for 48 hours: place in glass bowl, cover with cold water, keep in cool place (not refrigerator), changing water at least once in 12 hours. Fillet and skin herring. Chop vegetables, add seasonings, simmer 15 minutes. Add vinegar and ½ Tbsp. sugar, continue simmering for about 5 more minutes, cool thoroughly. Roll each pickle quarter into one herring fillet and secure with toothpick. Place herring in a glass dish and pour marinade to cover. Keep cold and covered. May be served in 24 hours. Other version: herring is not rolled, but cut into small pieces (pickle is not used at all), placed in a glass container and covered with marinade.

LITHUANIAN MUSHROOM SOUP
Lietuviška grybų sriuba

½ lb. dried mushrooms, or 1 quart canned mushrooms (drained)
1 quart sauerkraut juice and some sauerkraut
3 more quarts water
1 clove garlic
1 small bay leaf
1 cup rice or barley
Soak mushrooms overnight. Rinse about 3 times to clean them. Add mushrooms to water and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaf and sauerkraut juice. Let simmer for 1 hour (if canned mushrooms are used, boil only ½ hour). Add rice or barley and cook until tender. Soup thickening: In a small frypan, add 1 or 2 Tbsps. butter; fry 1 chopped onion until brown. Add 1 or 2 Tbsps. flour, stir well, and then let cool. Add thickener to the soup and boil for an additional ½ hour.

BREADED WHITE FISH
Kepta balta žuvis

1 lb. lean white fish (use walleye, halibut, pike, or sole)
2 egg whites
¼ cup skim milk
¼ lb. all purpose flour
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. paprika
Preheat oven to 500 ° . Place oven rack in center position. Cover cookie sheet with foil and spray with non- stick cooking spray. Combine egg whites and milk in shallow bowl; beat well. Place flour and bread crumbs on separate plates. Add pepper to flour; mix well. Add paprika to bread crumbs; mix well. Dip fish in flour mixture; then in egg whites; then in bread crumbs, coating thoroughly. Place fish on cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes at 500 ° . Then reduce heat to 450 ° . Remove cookie sheet from oven and turn fish carefully. Return sheet to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving if you wish.