What’s Cookin’ – Pierogies

It’s Sunday and I’m cookin’.  Two of my friends, Cathy and Laura, make homemade pierogies from old family recipes.  I have never made nor eaten pierogies, but I love anything made with dough.  So last Sunday Laura invited me over to her house to do some cookin’ and eatin’.

Here is a picture of Laura and her family.  She loves to bake and cook, and her family loves to eat!

Laura learned to make pierogies from her Ukrainian in-laws.  Pierogies are eastern European peasant food.  They are basically dumplings of unleavened dough stuffed with either savory or, sometimes, sweet fillings.  Pierogies may be boiled or boiled and fried.  Pierogies bear a resemblance to Chinese potstickers, and many believe that the Mongols and Huns brought the idea of stuffed dough to Europe.  Every country seems to have a version of stuffed dough whether it’s Italian ravioli, Spanish empanadas, Polish (or Ukranian) pierogies, or Russian piroshkies.  Russian piroshkies are the baked cousins to pierogies, and I ate these recently in Seattle.

Here’s a picture of piroshky making at Piroshky Piroshky in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  This version is baked.  These are chocolate mousse piroshkies, and they were delicious!

Laura has been making pierogies for her family for over 20 years, and I wanted to honor her recipe, so I made them again this Sunday to ensure that I got it right.  So here goes – how to make Laura’s Pierogies!

The original recipe calls for making the dough with flour and the potato water.  This makes for a very white and bland dough.  Some 20 or so years ago, Laura ran across a recipe for a richer dough which is what she makes now.

We made a triple batch, and these are the ingredients.  The portions listed in the recipe that follows are for a single batch that will easily serve 4 people with some leftover to fry the next day.  Unless, of course, you are serving teenage boys, in which case you make a double or triple batch.

Laura’s Pierogies

Serves 4, makes 16 to 18 3-1/2″ pierogies

Note on shape: Laura makes circular pierogies, but most pierogies are semi-circles.

1/2 pound bacon, fried until crispy (or more if you really love bacon)
1-1/2 large sweet yellow onions, sliced (or more if you really love onions)
Sour cream

Fry bacon.  Remove crispy bacon to a plate with a paper towel to drain and cool.  Crumble the cooled bacon.  Caramelize the onions by sautéing slowly in the bacon grease.  This may take up to an hour.  You want the onions nicely browned.  Remove to a plate with a paper towel to drain.

Here is the crispy bacon ready to be crumbled!

Here are the chopped onions ready to be caramelized.

Caramelizing the onions – your kitchen will smell heavenly at this point!

While the bacon and onions are cooking, you can prepare the dough and potato filling.

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 TB sour cream
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup warm milk

Mix eggs with sour cream.  Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add egg and sour cream mixture.  Cut into flour until slightly crumbly.  Add milk, a little at a time, until dough comes together.  You may or may not need all of the milk.  The dough should be soft.  Allow dough to rest.

Potato Filling:
1 to 1-1/4 pound Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 TB butter
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain.  Add butter and cheese and mash until smooth.  They will be “dry” mashed potatoes.  Taste to ensure that they are seasoned appropriately.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Boiling the potatoes in salted water.

You want “dry” mashed potatoes.  Some people add the bacon and onions to the mashed potatoes.  We had piroshkies with potato and onion and some with potato and onion and mushrooms.  Some recipes had saurkraut or cabbage, too.

Making the pierogies:
Divide the dough into 2 equal sections.  Roll one section out to a thin sheet.  It should be large enough to make 8 3-1/2″ circles.  You can check this by lightly imprinting the rolled out dough with a biscuit cutter, glass, or other similar device.  Fold this sheet of dough and put aside while you roll out the second sheet of dough to the same size as the first half.  Again, it is helpful to lightly imprint the dough with whatever device you are using to cut the circles.  At this point spoon balls of potato filling and place into each of the circles.  Lay the first sheet of dough over the top of this sheet.  Take your biscuit cutter, glass, or whatever device you are using to cut a circle around each ball of potato filling.  At this point, you can carefully lift each potato filled circle of dough and crimp the edges with your fingers.  The result is a rustic looking circle of dough with a plump filling of potato.   I had a little dough and a little potato filling leftover to make 2 additional pierogies.

Put the pierogies onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until ready to cook.

Cooking the pierogies:
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.  Add salt.  Add the pierogies to the boiling water and allow to cook for 5 to 10 minutes.  The cooking time will vary depending on how thick you rolled the dough and how many you are boiling at a time.  Test one for doneness to ensure that the dough is completely cooked.  Remove the boiled pierogies to a large metal bowl that contains melted butter until all of the pierogies are cooked and ready to serve.

Serving the pierogies:
Put 2 to 3 warm pierogies on your plate and add onions, bacon, and sour cream to taste.  Be careful of the first bite as the potato filling may be very hot.  Enjoy!

Serving leftover pierogies:
If you have leftover boiled pierogies, you may store them in the refrigerator.  The next day you can sauté them in a skillet with butter until browned.  I can’t wait to try them this way, too.  I’m sure they will be very yummy!

Thanks, Laura, for teaching me how to make pierogies and for allowing me to feature you and them here!

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