Pierogies: Comfort food, Polish style
Pierogies are the dumpling staple of eastern Europe
11/07/2012 12:00 AM
11/07/2012 1:48 PM
VIDEO: How to make pierogies
Just about every food culture in the world has some form of stuffed dumpling represented. Whether they be boiled or fried, the pot-stickers in Asia, empanadas of Latin America, samosas from India and hand-held meat pies of Great Britain all have one thing in common: they start out with a simple dough and some sort of filling.
Pierogies — the dumpling staple of eastern Europe — are of the same family.
A simple flour, egg and water combination for the dough; whatever you can imagine for a filling.
Traditionally, pierogies are filled with one of these combinations: mashed potatoes, a soft farmers cheese (or cottage cheese) and fried onion (a combination known as “Russian”); cabbage and fried onion; or a mixture of cottage cheese, sugar, vanilla and raisins.
When I was in Poland on a culinary tour last summer, we were served pierogies stuffed with mushrooms and farmers cheese at one sitting. A restaurant presented pierogies filled with spinach and smoked salmon.
The filling could be any combination of sweet or savory ingredients that you come up with or even a bit of leftovers from the night before. I thought since it is apple season, why not apples and cinnamon with a bit of sugar, a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of nutmeg? Maybe even some cheese? Put that combination inside of the dough, boil it, as is tradition, then finish in a frying pan with melted butter and sugar.
When it came time to re-create some recipes for a photograph for this column, I suggested to my editor that a how-to video for online might be fun.
I thought the photographer/videographer and I set up in my kitchen might be nice. I had done a trial run, start to finish working by myself making two dozen mushroom and cheese pierogies in just over two hours. Sounds like a lot, but making the filling and then the dough and rolling it out took very little time. It was the stuffing and sealing the individual dumplings that took the time.
Maybe if I enlisted a friend or two to help in the preparation, the process would go faster and you could see how easy the recipe really is to make.
That idea went over great . . . BUT we’d have to find a larger space because both the photographer and my editor, practically at the same time, declared my kitchen too small for such a project.
Soooo . . . thanks to Glenda Wolfe and Anne Postic for the loan of the kitchen and thanks to my friends Linda Sellers, Tara Felder, Yarley Steedly and Tracy Glantz for their support doing the chopping and cooking and filling (and later eating) of the pieorgies on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Here are some tips that I found that make the pierogi process go faster:
Organization is key. Start with the filling. You want to get the filling done first, especially if there’s cooking involved so that it can cool down a bit before being used.
You don’t need fancy kitchen tools. We used our hands to work the dough. After rolling it out with rolling pins to about one-eighth of an inch thick, we used plastic cups as cutters to cut out 3-inch discs. And when it came time to fish the finished dumplings out of the water, a slotted spoon or bamboo-and-wire strainer works just fine.
The dough making is the easy part, it’s the filling that takes time. Depending on how many types of pierogies you’ll be making, if you have the room you can have more than one person making dough. We made three types of pierogies for the video (a total of about 60 pierogies) so I set up three dough stations on large cutting boards on the kitchen island. We doubled the recipe on two stations (for the savory fillings) and a single dough recipe on the third (for the sweet filling). To fill a pierogi, place a little less than one tablespoon of filling in the center of the dough disc and fold the edge over to create a crescent shape. Seal the edges by folding over or crimping with the tines of a fork.
Put a large pot of water on to boil before you start (or at least about half-way through the process of) filling the pierogies. You don’t want to wait for water to boil. OK, I don’t like waiting for water to boil. I’m impatient. Since we were doing sweet and savory pierogies at the same time, I set two pots on the stove, one for the sweet, the other for the savory (who wants mushrooms or salmon floating in their apples-and-cinnamon?).
Enlist the family or friends and the process is faster and more fun. With six people, we stuffed and sealed about 60 pieorgies in about 30 minutes. Of course we were chatting away and being given direction from our photographer before noon on a Saturday so we possibly could have moved faster . . .
When the pierogies float, they’re done. Really. Placed in boiling water, it only takes a minute for the dumpling to rise and float to the surface. Work in batches. This ensures that the water remains close to a boil and that if one of the pierogies bursts open (it happens), you won’t have too much trouble fishing everything out of the pot.
Fry them? This is up to you. You can serve/eat the pierogies immediately after boiling or finish by frying (to just brown) in a bit of olive oil and butter.
Finish them off. Serve savory pierogies with bacon, fried onion, melted butter or sour cream. Sweet pierogies can be served with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of sugar.
makes about 12 pierogies. Recipe can be doubled or tripled as desired
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons cold water
Sift flour on work surface, form a well in the center and crack egg in center of well. Knead dough by hand, adding water slowly, until pliable. Roll out dough on a floured surface to about one-eighth inch thick. If the dough starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin, add a bit of flour. Cut out pierogies with a 3-inch cookie cutter (or inverted drinking glass).
Fill by placing a spoonful of filling in the center of the dough and fold to create a crescent-shaped pocket, crimping edges with a fork to seal.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and, in batches of four at a time, place filled pierogies in boiling water. Remove when they float to the surface.
Savory pierogies are traditionally served with fried bacon and melted butter or sour cream. After boiling, they can be sauteed in butter or oil to just brown.
Mushroom and Cheese filling
filling for two pierogie recipes
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 oz. farmers cheese (or any semi-soft cheese), diced fine
Fresh thyme, about 1 tablespoon, chopped
Olive oil and butter
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Heat olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and saute mushrooms and garlic until soft. Add fresh thyme to mushrooms and garlic and remove from heat. Add cheese to mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.
Spinach and Smoked Salmon filling
filling for two pierogie recipes
8 oz fresh spinach, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
Olive oil and butter
4 oz smoked salmon, chopped fine
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add fresh spinach and garlic and saute until just wilted. Add 1 tablespoon butter, stir until butter is melted, remove pan from heat and add smoked salmon. Mix until combined. Taste for seasoning.
Apples and Cinnamon filling
filling for one pierogie recipe
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (a dash)
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
optional: 1 ounce cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 tablespoons butter
Peel, core and dice apples. Heat butter in a saute pan. Add diced apples, sugar, cinnamon nutmeg and lemon juice. Saute until apples are just soft. Remove from heat. If you’re using cheese, add now and mix to combine.
Optional finish: After pierogies are boiled, heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Saute pierogies, about four at a time, in butter until just browned (the pierogies may puff open in the pan, that’s OK). Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.
BONUS RECIPE A reader, Eva Dorn, who is Polish-American, shares her recipe for Beef and Saurkraut Pierogies that she grew up with:
Dough 2 lb all-purpose flour 1 egg Cold water (add enough to create a delicate dough, easy to knead & roll out) Stuffing 2 lb rump or chuck roast 1 lb sauerkraut 3-4 dry mushrooms 2 small onions chopped Salt/pepper to taste
Soak the dry mushrooms 15 min in a cup of water to soften. Drain.
Boil sauerkraut & mushrooms for 30 min, then chop finely.
Boil the meat until soft, then grind it along with the mushrooms in the food processor.
Fry the onions.
Take the meat, onions, sauerkraut & mushroom mixture and fry in the skillet with olive oil for 20 minutes, add salt/pepper to taste. This process will dry out the moisture, which is what we want.
The taste should be a little bit sour from the sauerkraut, and smooth from ground up meat and onion.
Put this stuffing in the refrigerator to cool, then use the following day when you make pierogie dough.
The following day you can fry the leftover pierogi in a little oil & butter.
You may top them with some finely sliced, fried onion.
Either way, they should be delicious.
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