I have made it a goal of mine to try out the many different "dumpling" type recipes popular in different cultures. This goal is just in my head and not very organized. Just something that has always been interesting to me. There are Chinese pot stickers, Italian ravioli, American chicken and dumplings, Italian gnocchi, and many more. They are all made from different types of doughs and can be boiled, steamed or fried (often some combination). There are also many other dough pockets that are usually not boiled or steamed like Spanish (and many of nationalities) empanadas, Italian calzones, Indian samosas, various meat pies, and...the American Hot Pocket. These are usually baked or fried (or microwaved in the case of the Hot Pocket). And there are a million more.
Pierogies originated in Eastern and Central Europe. Places like Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and a lot of countries that end in 'ia'. I feel like I know very little about the food in this part of the world. My advisor is Russian and I always ask him what Russian food is...I have never received a satisfying answer.
A pierogi is one of the "dumplings" I have been wanting to try. It is made from unleavened dough. These were filled with a mashed potato and cheddar cheese mixture. They are then boiled for about a minute and pan fried in butter and olive oil to crisp up the outside. I served them with sauteed onions and sour cream.
I was very impressed! It is amazing that such simple ingredients like potatoes, cheese and a simple dough (made from only 3 ingredients) can be so good. And all things I usually have around. I think a dish like pierogies needs a lot of love. Whenever I am working with such basic ingredients, I know there has to be a trick to make it taste not basic.
It is important the filling is well seasoned. Taste it and probably put a little more salt in it than you would for mashed potatoes. It is important to not over cook them. Boil them only until the float to the surface of the water. Finally, I like to add some olive oil to the butter when pan frying. Butter burns so easily that the oil allows you to fry the pierogies at a higher temperature, which helps them not soak up as much fat but still get a nice crisp outer shell.
And I really liked the topping of sauteed onions and sour cream. I think this plate of dumplings looks ridiculous. Don't worry, we didn't eat them all.
Cheese and Potato Pierogies
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
Potato & Cheese Filling:
1 lb. russet potatoes
3 oz. grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. dried chives
1 onion, sliced thinly
butter (for sautéing)
flour (kneading and rolling dough)
To make the dough: Combine flour and salt. Add beaten eggs and water. Mix the dough until it becomes elastic and can be molded into a ball. Add more flour if it is too sticky. Wrap ball of dough in plastic and set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
To make the filling: Cut potatoes into cubes. Boil until soft. Mash with grated cheese, chives. Salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature.
To fill pierogies: Generously flour a cutting board and form the dough into a long roll. Add flour to the board and your hands as needed. Form 24 balls of dough from roll. Flatten a dough ball with your hand and make it large enough to place a heaping teaspoon (or more) or potato filling in center. Fold dumpling in half, and seal edges by crimping the sides together with a fork. Set on a floured surface and repeat until finished.
Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter on a large skillet. Sauté onions until browned, set aside.
To cook pierogies: Boil a large pot of salted water. On another burner, add 1 tsp. of butter on a skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add pierogies to the boiled water, 4-5 at a time but don’t overcrowd the pot. Boil for a few minutes until they float up, use a slotted spoon to lift them out onto a plate. Place drained pierogies onto the skillet and cook both sides until golden. Set on a plate and repeat process until finished. Top pierogies with sautéed onions and serve with sour cream.
(Servings: 24, Prep time: 1.5 hrs., Cook time: 20 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)