Pierogis - the perfect comforting meal for chilly nights
I love dumplings, in any shape, any size, with any filling. Each time I return home to San Francisco, I make a point to visit Xiao Long Bao, a cramped, Chinese dumpling spot on Geary St. in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. The women working there are notoriously mean and will yell at you if you take too long deciding which kind of steamed, pan fried, or deep fried dumpling you want. At Katchka in Portland, I fill my belly with pelemeni, tiny, hexagonal dumplings filled with farmers cheese, seasoned ground meat or sour cherries. These Russian dumplings are served in smetlana (thick European sour cream) or floating in a garlicky broth. No matter where they are from, I want them. This passionate dumpling affection led me to pursue making a dumpling of my own, one that is connected to my Polish and Lithuanian heritage: the Pierogi.
Pierogis (Potato Dumpling)
Filled with mashed potatoes, seasoned simply with dill and butter, these little half moon dumplings freeze very well. You can make an assembly line with your friends or family members and pack your freezer with pierogi to be enjoyed at any time. Pierogi are traditionally served with caramelized onions, sour cream and sauerkraut. You can experiment with the fillings. Braised cabbage, sausage with sautéed leeks and roasted winter squash with caraway are some of my favorites.
To start, I recommend using this classic potato filling. The recipe was hand written on a piece of paper by the grandmother of a woman I use to cook for and the result is a soft, luxurious dough that is easy to work with. I hope you enjoy these little treasures as much as I do!
For the dough:
Bring one cup water, 4 tbsp butter, and 2 tsp kosher salt to a boil. Add one cup flour and mix well. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Add 1 beaten egg and 1 more cup of flour. Mix and knead by hand. Wrap the dough in seran wrap and rest in for 45 minutes or more.
For the filling:
Cook potatoes ahead of time: Place the clean, whole potatoes in a saucepot and submerge them in water and bring to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt to the water and reduce to a simmer until they are tender and easily punctured with a fork, about 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting, peel the cooked potatoes and mash them well with butter, cream, salt, pepper and chopped dill. Taste for seasoning.
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a ¼” thick sheet. Use a can of soup or beans to cut circles in the dough. Fill each circle with 2 Tbsp of potato filling. Fold them over into half moons and use a fork to seal the edges. Place the sealed pierogies on a sheet tray in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. You can reuse the remaining scraps of dough to roll out more pierogies. I usually end up with one very large oddly shaped pierogi.
While the pierogies are chilling, caramelize two large onions. In a large saute pan over high heat add 4 Tbsp butter and sliced onions. Cook, stirring often until they begin to soften and darken in color. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until they are caramelized.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 3 Tbsp oil and 1 tsp kosher salt. Boil the pierogies, up to 10 at a time until they float to the surface. You can continue to cook them in the water for 3-5 minutes or transfer them to a hot frying pan and sear them on both sides until they are crisp. Serve with sour cream, caramelized onions and more fresh dill. Enjoy!
Pierogies freeze very well and can be easily made ahead of time for a party or dinner. To freeze them, transfer the firm pierogies from your sheet tray to a ziploc bag. When cooking the frozen pierogies, follow the same cooking instructions: add them to a pot of boiling water and wait until they float to the top, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a hot frying pan with butter and sear them until they are crispy and golden on both sides.