Pierogi - My Favorite Holiday Tradition
Delicious Dumplings The Whole Family Awaits With Eager Anticipation
When I think about holiday traditions the first thing that pops into my mind is the word, Pierogi. It might sound a bit strange but these little pillows of doughy delight are an incredibly important and sentimental part of Christmas for my family.
Pierogi are basically dumplings filled with a variety of different stuffings, ranging from sweet to savory. In my family the choice two fillings are cabbage and potato with cheese.
Every year after Thanksgiving and before Christmas all the women of the family get together to make the Christmas pierogi, which are assembled in vast quantities and then frozen until Christmas Eve. It isn't just a tradition, it is a ritual.
Even when I can't be with my family I still make sure that I keep the tradition alive in my home and complete the ritual. Christmas could never be Christmas without pierogi.
Having said that, I do put my own twist on the ones make. Every year I try something different. This year I made potato pierogi with caramelized onions and goat cheese. Once you understand the very basics of the filling and the dough you can get as creative as you like.
Below I have outlined the process I used to create my annual pierogi batch, including how to make the dough from scratch.
Quite Possibly The Best Christmas Ornament Ever - (I need one)
This ornament probably looks pretty tacky to most people but to me it looks like the embodiment of the holidays.
Potatoes (about 4 large)
Red Onions (about 3 large)
Goat Cheese (plenty)
Cracked Black Pepper
3 Cups flour (plus more for dusting)
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup sour cream
1 Large egg
3/4 Cup milk
First Caramelize The Onions
Caramelizing onions is pretty easy to do. Just chop the onions into thin slivers and then toss them in a frying pan with a bit of butter to get them started.
Fry them on a medium heat until they give up their water and their sugar. When they look cooked and start to brown they're just beginning to caramelize.
When they look like this, (or maybe a bit past this) they're ready.
Make The Mash
Making the rest of the filling is incredibly straight forward. Just boil the peeled and chopped potatoes as you normally would to make mashed potatoes, until they're tender.
Drain them when they're finished boiling and mash them with the onions and the cheese. I would suggest that you put the cheese in a bit at a time and season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Once you're happy with the flavor balance you're finished.
I prefer to do this part with a manual potato masher because I don't like the filling to be too smooth. It shouldn't be very lumpy but it also shouldn't be the consistency of frosting which is what you tend to get if you use a stick blender or an electric mixer.
Once the filling is completed, pop it in the fridge to chill.
Make The Dough
While the filling is chilling you have the perfect opportunity to make the dough.
All you need to do for this is combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or a bread maker/dough mixer to do the manual part) and mix them until you have a loose dough ball, then if you are kneading by hand, transfer the dough ball to the counter and knead for about 10 minutes.
You will know the dough is ready when it changes texture completely, it's very obvious when this happens.
The dough will start out pretty lumpy and unruly at first. Add flour as necessary and knead it (put your back into it!!) until it is smooth and sticks together without sticking to the counter top. If you pull off a piece and stretch it out with a bit of flour it should feel almost like really soft skin and it should retain its shape instead of breaking apart or trying to snap back into a ball.
Once the dough is finished it is best to allow it to chill (covered) in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Time To Roll It Out
Once everything is chilled you're ready to roll.
The dough in this recipe will make at least 24 pierogi if you're cutting out 3 inch disks. If you re-roll the scraps you will get many many more dumplings out of it.
I like to split my dough into 4 sections to roll it out, keeping the sections that aren't being rolled covered so that they don't dry out.
There are all sorts of fancy cutters and crimpers marketed for aiding you on your pierogi journey, but truth is, they're totally, 100% unnecessary.
I was taught how to make pierogi by my great grandmother who learned from her mother and so forth and so on, and these women didn't have any of those silly commercialized devices which allegedly make a totally simple process "easier".
All you need are your hands and a glass with an approximate 3" rim. If you really want the gadgets, that's up to you.
Roll out the dough so that it is about 3mm thick. You may lightly flour both sides of the dough to ensure it does not stick to the counter. It's going to feel like soft and very flexible skin. I understand that isn't the most appetizing analogy, but that's the best way I can describe it.
Next, take a glass with a suitably sized rim and cut out your disks.
Forming The Dumplings
To make each individual dumpling take a single disk and stretch out the edges a bit to make sure it's nice and floppy.
Put a spoonful of chilled potato filling in the middle in proportion to the photo I've provided.
To seal the dumpling you just need to gently pull the dough and pinch it together. If the edges are too floury and won't stick on their own just put a dab of water on them to help everything seal.
As you're sealing the pierogi it's very important to be mindful that you're not trapping any air and that no filling is near the edges because this will cause a tiny gap and when there are air bubbles and tiny gaps the pierogi will be more likely to burst when boiled.
The first couple you make might look more like bananas than the neat and tidy dumpling pictured. I've had a lifetime of practice but I still do make the occasional mutant rogi. Don't worry about it, they'll still taste wonderful and after you do a few they'll look much prettier!
After I fill each pierogi I like to line my dumplings on a lightly floured surface so that I can do the boiling stage all at once.
In my family when we've got the super polish woman assembly line going we can have some people filling and some people boiling at all times which is extremely efficient, but all I have in my kitchen is myself and my husband, and one of me is not capable of stuffing the pierogi as fast as he can boil them.
Ready To Boil The Pierogi
When you are ready to boil the pierogi you need to make sure they have somewhere to go once they're finished. If you put some butter in a pan as pictured you'll have a simple, tidy station set up for coating them in non stick buttery goodness.
Have a separate large saucepan of gently boiling, salted water ready and add the dumplings in batches of 3 or 4 at a time.
They're finished when they float. (about 30 seconds) That's really all there is to it.
When they're done boiling, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and toss them in the butter.
Storage & Leftovers
When you're finished boiling the pierogi they can be eaten immediately.
If you are making them ahead, they refrigerate well and reheat marvelously in the oven, microwave or frying pan.
If you're freezing them it's best to do it on a cookie sheet and then you can transfer the frozen pierogi into a ziplock bag or better yet, you could seal them in a food saver.
I've kept pierogi in the freezer for over 6 months and they've still thawed and reheated beautifully.
In my family it is tradition to make so many pierogi (literally hundreds) that there will be enough to feed everyone on Christmas eve and so there will be enough leftover for Christmas breakfast.
The pierogi of Christmas breakfast are pan fried to crispy perfection. This is my absolute favorite way to eat them, preferably with a little sour cream!