What we now call bourekas were probably invented in the Ottoman Empire, or possibly the Roman Empire. It’s always tough to try and trace a dish back to its ancient origins, especially when many cultures have ties to it. That’s certainly the case for the boureka, which can be found in the Balkans, North Africa, and throughout the Levant. Sephardic Jews brought the boureka to Israel, where it has become popular enough to have bakeries dedicated to the humble turnovers.
This recipe gives new form to the peppery-cheesy-carby combination of cacio e pepe, which is magically so much more than the sum of its parts. The amount of black pepper may seem excessive, but it gives a punch to a dish that is mostly carbs and fat. Please be sure to buy a wedge of parmesan, rather than the pre-grated stuff, which has less flavor, is drier, and may contain various fillers and preservatives that have nothing to do with cheese.
Makes about 6 to 8 bourekas
Total time: about 1 hour, about 20 minutes active work
1 small block puff pastry dough - store bought is fine
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup freshly grated parmesan + more for topping
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
About 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper + more for topping
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs, divided
A few handfuls all purpose flour, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Peel and chop the potatoes and place them in a medium-sized pot with enough cold water to cover them by a couple inches. Cook over high heat until boiling, then boil them until very soft, about 10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and mash them until no large chunks remain. Grate about ½ cup parmesan over the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the minced parsley, olive oil, and 1 egg, stirring until thoroughly combined.
Remove dough from the fridge and prepare a work space by lightly dusting a cutting board with all purpose flour. Roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and cut it into 4 inch squares. Any scraps can be made into franken-bourekas of varying shape and beauty - they will look weird but are still delicious.
Add the filling, placing a generous 2 tablespoons worth into the center of each square, leaving at least a ¼ inch on each side and nearly ½ an inch along the long side. Use your fingertips to pinch all of the edges closed. Once all of all the bourekas have been formed, crack an egg into a bowl, add about a teaspoon of water and gently beat the egg until blended. Brush the bourekas with the egg wash and top with more grated parmesan and black pepper.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the bourekas are a deep golden color and quite puffy. If you wish, grate a little more parmesan on the warm bourekas. Yes that’s three times cheese has been added. It’s nice.
These can be served warm, but taste pretty good at any temperature.