So what the heck is a runza anyway? Well, it's a classic buttery-beef, savory cabbage-and-onion-filled sandwich. Beloved. In Nebraska, there's a fast-food chain that bears the name. There are 78 Runza restaurants, and only 4 are located outside the state. It's a great (and funny!) three-generation story! This sandwich was born here.
The very name RUNZA is trademarked but church cookbooks all over the state have recipes for a homemade version. And the Everett family who founded the restaurant doesn't get too steamed about it.
In 2016 alone, the chain sold some 2 million of them. So many fanatics hankered for the savory delight that now it's possible to get them shipped, frozen, right to your door!
About 90,000 fans attend each University of Nebraska home football game. On every game day, about 10,000 of the cherished sandwiches are sold. That means about one in every nine people there will choose one despite the hundreds of other food options.
Runzas are a cherished part of the regional cuisine of Nebraska. Some pundits say they are as "Nebraskan as Cornhusker (University of Nebraska) football." Across the country, Nebraska fans are known for their unwavering loyalty to the program through thick and thin. These sandwiches are equally beloved.
The Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C., and the Nebraska Society of New York serve runzas at their Taste Of Nebraska events. They were even chosen to represent the state at Flavored Nation, an event serving iconic dishes from all fifty states.
According to Wikipedia, a runza can be any round, square, triangular, or half-moon shape. They are called different names in other regions: bierocks, kraut burgers, or kraut pirok. But, by any other name, it is still a runza!
I hope I've made you curious! And you can make a pretty darn good one at home, in fact, a whole batch of them, and here's how.
It's true they are kind of a sandwich but they're more like a hand pie. They freeze exceptionally well so some clever bakers make a double batch and freeze them for those busy nights when all you have to do is pop them in the oven or the microwave to reheat, and they reheat beautifully!
At last, for all the Runza-less people in the rest of America, here's how you can make some at home.
In your large stand mixer, make the dough from the recipe We've included. Option B: you can do this by hand and knead the dough. Feel virtuous, and build up your arm strength. Option C: Use frozen bread dough, thawed out.
Easy, semi-homemade and you still get all the amazing smells while they're cooking and baking. I have heard of some folks who use biscuit dough, but I have never tried it.
Brown the ground beef in a large skillet until it starts to lose its pinkness.
Chop a medium head of cabbage and a medium onion. You should end up with about 6 cups of cabbage but it doesn't have to be exact.
Add the cabbage, onions, butter, and seasonings to the beef and continue to cook until the beef is a little browned and the cabbage and onions are soft and wilty. Set that aside to cool.
Divide the dough into 16 portions. Try to have each dough ball be the same size; it helps the runzas to bake more evenly. Roll each dough ball into a slipper-shaped oval. Put about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of meat mixture on the dough and fold it up, sealing the edges well.
I keep a cup of warm warm nearby while I'm doing this. I've found the dough seals better if I dip my finger in the water and run it along the edge of the dough. Don't aim for perfection unless you are hosting foreign dignitaries. Think handmade, rustic. Channel your inner Pioneer Woman.
Lay each one on its tummy, seam side down, on a greased baking pan to rise for about 20-30 minutes.
Bake them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned, and brush the tops with melted butter. We think a pan of fresh-baked runzas is a thing of beauty. Here in Nebraska, on cold winter nights, you will often see Facebook posts showing pictures of a proud batch. It's a thing with us.
Once you have tackled your first batch, you'll start thinking of ideas to make them your own. Add cheese on top of the filling before baking. Check. Add mushrooms, yep. Use Italian seasoning in the filling and dip in marinara sauce. Bellissimo! Get it? Another chance to color outside the lines and do your thing.
My husband eats his with mustard, tearing each one into little bites and smearing the yellow goodness on each mouthful.
What to serve with them? French fries or potato chips are standard but fried apples are great. Vegetable soup, tomato soup, or broccoli cheese soup would also pair well! And while you have the oven on, whip up some of these crazy easy cookies. Now go polish your halo, you amazing kitchen conqueror!
Find some time on a snowy weekend and make up a batch. These freeze and reheat well; see the recipe for details!
You can use frozen bread dough that you have defrosted.
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Love, GB (Betty Streff)
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