One of my office co-workers, Asia (that’s pronounced “Ah-sha” in case you were thinking she was named after a continent), is originally from Poland. Last week our Polish princess brought in a batch of pierogi made by her mother, who is currently visiting the U.S. Pierogi, in case you have not experienced this delicacy, are a stuffed dumpling kind of thing. Think Polish ravioli. They were fabulous, so of course we wanted to know how to make them. And who better to teach us than a genuine Polish grandma?
Hence the Pierogi Party. We gathered at my place as I have an excellent kitchen for demo purposes; that’s one reason I chose this house. Before the demo we gathered for a Q&A session (via translator) about the nature of pierogi and various filling options. Then it was time for the show. Danuta (Asia’s mom) and Asia had previously made the potato filling (mashed potatoes with cream cheese and onions, chilled, then formed into balls), so all that was needed was the pierogi dough.
Yep. Milk (we used 2%) and flour (all purpose). That’s it. Two ingredients: Milk. Flour. It was a 3-1 ratio; Danuta mixed up 6 cups of flour and 2 cups of hot milk to make the dough, which netted us 48 potato and about a dozen blueberry. She kneaded until it was “right” (basically an elastic, shiny dough) then rolled it out.
It was a little tricky finding the right size “cutter”. . . apparently every drinking vessel I own is the same size. But the next step is to cut out dough circles, then take a ball of filling . . .
(which, by the way, are a heaping tablespoon each)
Then said filling is placed on a dough circle, which is then stretched around it and pinched shut. It’s very important to get a good seal, lest the filling leak out into the pot of water while boiling.
Soon we were all trying our hand at stretching and squeezing. Danuta allowed as how we did pretty well for a group of non-polish newbies. At least, that’s what Asia said she said; Danuta doesn’t speak English so we had to communicate via interpreter.
Next the little bundles of goodness are dusted with flour (to keep them from sticking to anything while they’re on deck) and popped into a big pot of boiling salted water that also has a dash of oil in it. Again, that’s to help ward off potential stickiness.
Once they pop up to the top of the pan instead of resting on the bottom, they need to cook for another 3-5 minutes. You just have to pull one out after 3 minutes and test for doneness. Then out they come!
At this point you can fry them in a little oil until golden brown and delicious, or slap them on a plate and top with sauteed onions. We did both, because that’s just how we roll. Serve with sour cream and enjoy!
We also made some blueberry pierogi. I took some frozen blueberries, added brown sugar and a generous dash of cinnamon, stirred it together and used that as filling. No, I didn’t measure a darn thing. We ate those with a sprinkling of sugar and sour cream, and they were so good we snarfed down about half of them before I thought to count the output. They tasted like . . . breakfast. Which is handy, because there are enough left over for me to have for breakfast tomorrow. And I will. So there.
Here’s the recipe, which includes the various filling options we discussed. Some of it is a little vague, but what the heck. It’s pockets of dough made from flour and milk, filled with stuff, and boiled. Fill in the blanks any way you like.
Russet Potatoes – 2 lb
Peel, boil, in salt water, mash, let cool.
2 8 oz cream cheese (lite – Neufchatel is best for texture) (or farmer’s cheese + 2 T sour cream)
1 medium onion, diced, sautéed in oil (not olive oil)
Salt & pepper to taste
Cool. Roll into 1-inch balls & refrigerate. Best made the day before.
Fresh: wash, dry, & use. If sour, sprinkle with sugar before closing
Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
Farmer’s Cheese, 1 egg yolk, sugar & vanilla. Mix together.
Mix pork & beef (good pieces – butt/shoulder from pig, sirloin or tips from cow)
Salt, pepper, bay leaf – boil. Grind medium. (can grind onion & garlic into meat) Fry with onion; spice as needed.
Sauerkraut & Wild Mushroom
Polish Sauerkraut (no vinegar)
Dried polish mushrooms (soak in water overnight to hydrate then boil in that water until done al dente)
Cook sauerkraut (boil in a little water, enough so it doesn’t stick, about an hour)
Chop or grind together (after draining) Add onion when grinding
Fry; add salt & pepper to taste
Put big pan of water on to boil, add salt & dash of oil
6 cups flour, sifted
2 cups milk (2%) hot (not scalded, 2 minutes in my microwave)
Mix together with hands. When it sticks together, turn out onto lightly floured board & knead. Dough will appear dry. When it doesn’t stick to your fingers & makes a shiny dough, it’s done.
Cut circles from dough. Stretch around ball of filling & pinch edges closed. If necessary, add a drop of water to help edges stick, but this is not recommended. Sprinkle with flour so they don’t stick to counter.
Add pierogi to water which has been brought to a rolling boil, about 10 for my pot. They’ll drop to the bottom. When they bob to the surface, cook another 3-5 minutes. Thicker dough takes longer. Pull one to test after 3 minutes.
Can be cooled and frozen separately on a tray, then bagged. When ready to eat, add frozen pierogi to boiling water & cook as if they were newly made.
Serve with sour cream and/or sautéed onions.