The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.
As I’ve discussed previously, I have a love for mashed potatoes…pretty much in all forms. So, who could say no when the Daring Cooks challenge for August was to make some Pierogi. I opted for a traditional filling of potatoes, onions and cheese…topped with some crisped prosciutto and chive oil.
I read many a recipe, flipped through many a cookbook, and after much research, determined that cake flour is an important component of tender, non-rubbery pierogi. (No one likes a doughy, thick or rubbery pierogi!)
Many recipes were light on eggs…I doubled my recipe…which meant 4 eggs.
Now, here is when Woody will tell you, that I went wrong. I’m fortunate to have a kitchenaid mixer…and I love it. But every once in a while, I think that a recipe might benefit from a little hand mixing…or that I might reach a higher level of baking by doing it the old-fashioned way, that there is something to be gained from flour underneath my fingernails and the never-ending task of scraping off the amazingly cement-like glue that liquid mixed with flour makes off of your hands. This is almost certainly not true…but I am certain that I will continue to make this mistake again and again.
The non-mechanical method involves making a well in the center of the flour mixture and adding the egg mixture.
Mix slowly with a fork and then with your fingers, slowly incorporating the flour along the edges of the well. You’ll know it is working if your hand looks like this. (This is when Woody said ‘why didn’t you use the kitchenaid’…and I had no answer.)
So…I stopped everything and used the kitchenaid and it was wonderful! It did all the work for me!
And I ended up with a nice looking, if still a bit sticky, dough ready for resting.
While the dough is resting…it’s time to start making the filling. Peel and boil your potatoes until tender in salted water.
While the potatoes are cooking, dice an onion.
Soften the onion over medium heat in a little butter and remember to season with salt.
While your onions are softening, drain the cottage cheese. Or if you are lucky enough to find dry cottage cheese at the market, no draining is necessary.
Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them up…just crush, smush, maul, beat, and mangle them to your heart’s content. Smoother is better so your filling does not rip open a hole in your dough. Add into the smushed potatoes, onions, cottage cheese, chopped fresh chives and lots of salt and pepper.
I have only eaten pierogi’s from a restaurant once in my life, and it was in Juneau, Alaska at an ungodly hour in the middle of the night during the Juneau Folk Festival. Apparently it is really the only place open in the middle of the night, in Juneau, where you can get sustenance to help the night keep chugging along…and it is really more of a food stand than a restaurant, as there is seating for 8 and you order through a window. If this place were relocated to L.A., it’d be the newest trendy food truck.
The place – Pel’ meni. They serve one thing and one thing only…pierogi’s (pel’ meni in Russian) topped with curry powder, tabasco sauce, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.
(photo compliments of Yelp.com)
Alright, back to my cooking…I opted to add a little color to my dish while sticking to the same flavor profile…enter chive oil. Herb oils are fantastic. Not only infused with flavor but the color and texture can add layers of depth and appeal to a dish. I simply warm up a little olive oil or grape seed oil over a medium flame, remove it from the heat and once it has cooled a bit, dump in the herb of choice. Anything will do…just avoid deep-frying the herb in oil that has heated too long. Let it sit and infuse and cool completely. Once cooled, puree the mixture. I use my hand blender, but a standard blender would work just as well. You can leave as many chunks as you would like…I prefer to blend it as much as I can.
The color is amazing and it plates very well. I love using it in any dish…all the time…for everything…not that I’m obsessed or anything! (Woody might compare my love for herb oils to my love for small bowls…we’ll discuss later.)
The mixture was a bit crumbly and to help it hold together, I added a couple of tablespoons of melted butter and an egg…which worked smashingly!
Onto the dough…
Roll out the dough. I needed quite a bit of flour in order to keep the dough from sticking to the counter, and my fingers, and the rolling pin, and the pierogi cutter. It is important to roll the dough quite thinly – otherwise your pierogi’s will be thick and chewy and pasty.
Cut rounds using a cookie cutter, jar, drinking glass, or any round item you might have.
Now you have two options at this point, you can fill the dough with a teaspoon of filling and seal the dumpling with a fork using the tines to mesh the dough together. Or, you can find yourself one of these inexpensive and multitasking tools. I love this. I love that I can use this for any stuffed dough endeavor, gyoza, potstickers, empanadas, hand pies, pasties…the list goes on.
It’s so simple. Just add filling and fold and press.
And you get the added bonus of having the dumpling looking almost perfect! Isn’t it pretty?
As you make them…set them on a tray…you will most likely have enough pierogi to feed an army. Who knows, maybe the army is stopping by for dinner…it’s good to be prepared. If they begin to dry out, place a tea towel over them to avoid cracking.
I told you chive oil was beautiful.
Now here is the clincher – oven-crisped prosciutto! It’s like bacon, but better! All that is needed is a little parchment, some thinly sliced prosciutto, and an oven set to 400º. It can burn quite quickly so keep an eye on it. Once it has cooled enough, place on paper towel to drain any excess grease.
My double recipe of dough and lack of measuring how much potato mixture I made…resulted in a significantly large batch of finished pierogi. We had to freeze more than 2/3 of what we made…but they are a perfect freezer meal as there is no need to defrost. Toss any and all pierogi you intend to eat that night…into some salted and boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
The pierogi will float when they are ready to be removed from the boil. Each bath of 6 pierogi boiled for between 3 and 4 minutes.
Next plop them into a skillet with some melted and bubbling butter. This will give them a little crust…of deliciousness!
Now it’s time to plate. A smear of sour cream, a drizzle of chive oil, a spear of crisped prosciutto and a few fresh chives top it off. Quite tasty.
I’m glad we’ve got a freezer full of pierogi’s, so come fall, on a weeknight, when we’ve worked late and the energy to plan dinner is nonexistent, all we’ll need to do is open the freezer and boil some water.