Friday, July 1, 2016

Pierogies are all the rage!

It’s a tradition in our family to make Potato and Cheddar Cheese Pierogies as a side dish for Easter.  It’s a Polish comfort food consisting of a noodle dough pocket encasing the potato cheddar cheese filling, our families' favorite which are consumed as soon as they arrive on the table.

Various cooking magazines and websites have been featuring pierogi recipes with novel fillings like beef, onion, and cheddar; bacon, onion, and spinach; or cottage cheese and blueberries.  My Polish cookbook contains seven different dough recipes and forty different fillings, both savory and sweet.  I also have made mushroom filled pierogies with minced mushrooms, onions, parsley, heavy cream, salt, and pepper.

Shortly after Easter, I was asked by my daughter and her sister-in-law to teach them how to make Potato and Cheddar Cheese Pierogies.  My daughter needed a refresher course having helped her grandmothers make them growing up.  Though it’s time consuming to make about 50 pierogies, I do it in two steps.  First, I make the potato and cheese filling and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to solidify.  Meanwhile I make two separate batches of the dough in the food processor and let it rest for a half hour.  The gluten in the flour relaxes making it easier to roll out this very forgiving dough.  The trickiest part is carefully lifting the filling on the dough off of the counter and gently holding it to pinch the dough shut.  Once you master this, you can make 50 pierogies in about an hour.  After the pierogies are all formed, boiling each batch of 12 takes about 3 minutes.  I serve them with melted butter and sautéed chopped Vidalia onion.  The creaminess of the filling and the soft delicacy of the dough is to die for!  Check out my recipe.  

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POTATO AND CHEDDAR CHEESE PIEROGIES                       Yield:  About 48 pierogies


2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
½ cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a food processor, blend the eggs, water, and sour cream.  Then add the flour and salt and combine until the dough forms and moves away from the sides of the processor.  Remove the dough, split it in half, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let rest for half an hour to relax it for easy rolling.

Note:  You may have to make one more batch of dough to finish off the potato filling.


4 large Russet potatoes
1 to 1-1/2 pounds extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and boil until fork tender.  Drain and return to pot and mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill.  Add the shredded cheese to the warm potatoes.  Meanwhile, heat the butter and milk in a saucepan until tiny bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from heat and add the salt and pepper and pour over the potato and cheese combining until somewhat chunky texture,  Do not over mix to a creamy consistency like mashed potatoes because the potato mixture will slip out of the dough when pinching each pierogi.  Let the potato and cheese mixture cool to a firm texture for easy spooning onto the dough circles.

Rolling, filling, and pinching:

Unwrap the dough and slice into quarters and rewrap the three quarters.  Lightly flour a sheet pan and the table or counter and roll out the dough to 1/8” thick.  Cut out 3-1/2” circles with a large plastic drink cup. 

Drop 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of potato cheese filling and begin pulling over the dough to stick it to the opposite side.  Then pick up the pierogi and begin pinching at the ends being careful to stretch out the dough more over the filling to seal it in, then double pinch for a complete seal.  Lay each on down on the floured sheet pan until full and then tap off excess flour to avoid the dough from becoming tough.

Drop one dozen at a time into salted boiling water in a large pot and cook for about 3 minutes until they float to the top.  Give a quick stir if they don’t come up.  You can transfer them to a serving dish with melted butter.  I’ve also sautéed onions until translucent in butter or sage in butter as a sauce.

The rest can be frozen on sheet pan then put in gallon freezer bags for future use.  Note:  Do not defrost the frozen pierogies because the dough will become soft and the filling will leak out.  As soon the water boils, drop them in and cook as directed as above for the unfrozen ones. 


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