Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Polish Comfort - Pierogis

On Sunday morning, I mentioned to P that I would have extra time on Sunday evening. In his best little kid has been good all year and deserves XYZ toy from Santa voice, he said, "Oh? Then...would you please make pierogis like you used to in Massachusetts?" I couldn't say no. There are many reasons to say no. The carb load of pasta and potatoes and cheese. The time consuming process to create a filling, create a dough and put the two together. The fact that he'll likely consume 90% of them. And yet...I had time...and they are homemade, comforting and make fabulous pull it outta the freezer food.

My dad's side of the family is Polish and German. We grew up with a few Polish phrases and much of the food culture. We didn't do pierogis. At big family dinners, there were plenty of Polish delicacies like smoked Polish sausage and angel wings, but no pierogis. None that I recall. We first had pierogis from the deli section of a local apple market in Western Massachusetts. They were made by a Polish family in Chicopee. They were divine for dinner - open package, saute with butter, serve - ta da. I figured I could try making them.

WARNING: This is a trial and MUCH error kind of food. Expect filling to leak out, dough to not seal and generally plan to make a big mess of your kitchen. You have been warned.

Pierogi Filling
Peel chop and boil some potatoes. Maybe 5-7 red skin potatoes or 3-4 large brown potatoes. Boil until you can easily stick a fork through 'em, just like you would for mashed potatoes. Drain the water. Add a splash of milk or cream. Add chopped chives or other seasonings of your choice. Add some cheese (I had nice spreadable cheese from Hills' that I needed to use up, it worked perfectly). Add pepper (and salt if you must) to taste. Mash it up. Stir it up. Set aside to cool.

Set a big pot of water on the stove and put it on high to bring to a rolling boil by the time you need it.

Pierogi Dough
3 cups of all purpose flour (you can substitute some whole wheat)
1 Tablespoon sour cream
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
water as needed to form dough

Mix all ingredients together, adding water as needed to form a nice sticky dough. Knead for approximately 3 minutes. Set aside to let the gluten relax. Knead again and separate into 4 pieces.

Here comes the time consuming part.

Roll out one section of the dough to 1/8 of an inch. This is very thing. Very, very thin but not paper thin. This is hard to do with the pierogi dough. May the force be with you. To combat the gluten and the "spring back" effect I get when rolling out the dough, I beat it with a marble rolling pin. Then, when rolling it out, I roll from the center to the edges. I push the rolling pin with all my mighty shoulder strength into the dough to show it who's boss. When it starts to spring back too often, I stop and let it rest to relax the gluten.

Roll the damn thing out. Use the biggest circular cutter you have (~2 inches in diameter). This could be a biscuit cutter, a cookie cutter or a glass. I typically use a glass as I can't find my biscuit cutters. Seems I need to make biscuits more often.

Cut circles from the dough. Take the circles of dough and place a teaspoonful of the mashed potato mixture right in the center. Fold the circle in half, sealing in the mashed potato mixture. Seal the edges by pressing down with fork tines. Set aside. Remember that pot of boiling water? Once you have 10 pierogis ready, drop them into the boiling water. Stir once to reduce stickage. Once the pierogis float to the top, they are done (2-5 minutes). Set them aside on a cooking sheet to dry and cool. 

Repeat with remaining dough and filling. You'll likely have leftover filling...oh darn. Once the pierogis are dry you can put them into freezer bags and pop 'em in the freezer! If you want to consume them immediately, saute them in a bit of butter and sage if you have it. Enjoy.

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