Food is a religion in my family. We worship culinary experiences and gathering together around the dining table to eat. It has always been this way, since my parents, and my parents’ parents, and parents’ grandparents.

My Great-Grandmother was Marica Helenka Mrak. She arrived at Ellis Island from modern-day Croatia after WWI.  My great-grandmother was raised on a farm in central Croatia, not far from the Hungarian border, and where the cuisine included smoked and cured meats, barbecued lamb, cheeses, pickled vegetables, sour cream and strudel.

My great-grandma, according to all those who knew her, was a phenomenal cook. She and my great-grandfather settled in Gary, Indiana where my grandfather worked in the steel mill and the two of them built a home. Despite living in an industrial city, they surrounded their house with a vegetable garden instead of a lawn.  In their garage, they smoked sausages and cured meats.  They made their own wine and distilled spirits, pickled whole heads of cabbage for Sarma and bartered what they made with neighbors and local farmers. This was the woman who taught my mother how to cook.

And this is the foundation from which Spoondrift Kitchen has grown. My mission as a Chef and small business owner in Maine is to:

  1. Create family and ritual around the dining table.
  2. Empower people to build a healthy, intuitive relationship with food, both in how they consume it and how they cook it.
  3. Nurture joy in eating and eating with others.
  4. Honor the history and storytelling of the food we eat - the culture it comes from, the farmers who raised it, and the chef who prepared it.

And in this spirit, I share with you a prized family heirloom - Marica’s recipe for Knedle. It is the best of ancestral peasant food you can get. Knedle is a Croatian cottage-cheese dumpling, made with dry cottage cheese, flour, and eggs, then smothered in a sour cream, meat drippings, and butter sauce. In this rendition, we will garnish it with SKORDO’s Smoked Sweet Paprika, which adds beautiful color to this dish, as well as perfectly subtle smokey heat. I love SKORDO for the quality of their spices and support of local Maine businesses. And they are a local Portland, Maine business themselves! Because this recipe comes from an area that borders modern-day Hungary, paprika is the perfect garnish. In Hungary, paprika is served with every dish alongside salt. It is a national treasure!

Knedle can be eaten on its own, or served as a side dish to just about everything. We particularly serve it with spring lamb or with a roasted chicken.

Marica’s Knedle

Makes about 16-20 2” dumplings



  • 1 lb dry cottage cheese (I recommend the dry cottage cheese from Nezinscot Farm, here in Maine). If you don’t have dry cottage cheese, drain 2 lbs of cottage cheese until most of the liquid is gone
  • 1 3/4 cups flour + extra for dusting
  • Salt to taste (start with a 3-finger pinch)
  • 4 eggs


  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup meat drippings (the drippings off a fresh roasted chicken or other meat is perfect)
  • 1 stick butter

How to make it:

Make the dumplings first. Mix cheese, salt and eggs. Add in the flour - just enough to make a soft dough. Stir with a whisk or a fork, just until the flour lumps are gone (do not over mix or the dumplings will become gummy).

Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on your working surface (give yourself plenty of counter space to work). Sprinkle flour on the wax paper.

Sprinkle flour on your hands, and gently scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture to make balls of approx. 1.5” diameter. Gently coat each one in flour and set it down on the wax paper, making sure there is space between each dumpling.

Bring a pot of water to boil (a pot that is shallow and wide is better than deep and tall this). Gently spoon each dumpling into the water and let them simmer for 15-20 minutes, until they float. You want to gently stir every few minutes, making sure the dumplings aren’t sticking to the bottom or sides. Make sure not to overcrowd the pot if you have a smaller vessel, and work in batches if necessary. 

You can take one out and cut it in half to make sure they are done. You should see no opaque white flour kernels left inside the dumplings.

In the last few minutes of the dumplings cooking, make the sauce. Mix all the ingredients in a saute pan and heat on low heat, until combined. Make sure it doesn’t boil or the cream will curdle.

Pour over the dumplings and sprinkle SKORDO Smoked Sweet Paprika on top.


June 19, 2023

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