Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Thesis Namesake

The way I see things, what better way to begin 2009 -- the year in which I will (happily) finish my thesis and shortly afterward graduate -- than with a food that I love and that is integral to at least the idea of my food thesis (which was the impetus for this blog)? I really cannot think of a better food for a first post of 2009 right now. Mmm, pierogi.


That's right, the Polish dumpling dish that seems readily available where I live (thank you Eastern European immigrants to the Chicagoland area) but that I've heard is a mere myth in other regions of the United States. Trust me, you don't know what you're missing if you're from one of these pierogi-free regions. Especially if you love all things noodle-y.


The concept is simple, really: pierogi are dumplings stuffed with fillings, traditionally things like potatoes, sauerkraut, or sweet cheese. The beauty of making pierogi yourself is that you can choose WHATEVER FILLINGS YOU LIKE. In my house, when I'm the pierogi-filler, that means some sweet cheese and some mashed potato with a little piece of Velveeta mixed in. I'm rather sure the possibilities are near endless; you have only your personal tastes to limit you.


Yesterday my mother and I took my Christmas-new Kitchen Aid mixer out of the box and gave it its inaugural task. The pierogi dough is so easy with that thing! So easy, in fact, that with two people working to mix dough, cut shapes, fill pierogi, and boil them, we made two modestly-sized batches in an hour. Beautiful.


When you've made your pierogi, you can cook them any number of ways: reboil; microwave; fry in a little bit of butter; fry in butter and onions. And you can serve them in a number of ways, too. Some people like potato pierogi with some sour cream; some people like sweet cheese pierogi with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Honestly, go to town. Really make the pierogi yours. They're so easy to make and so tasty to eat that you'd be remiss not to.


Pierogi

2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 c warm water

Beat the egg into the water, then add the wet mixture to the flour and salt to make a soft dough. (A dough hook works well.) Remove the dough to some plastic wrap (so it won't dry out) and let it stand for ten minutes.
Roll the rested dough thin on a floured pastry cloth or clean surface. Use the open end of a cup to cut your pierogi shapes. Put a small amount of filling in the center of each dough circle, wet the edge of the dough with warm water, and fold the pierogi into a half circle and seal. Make sure your seal is tight, otherwise the pierogi can split and leak in the cooking water.
Drop the sealed pierogi into salted boiling water in small batches. Cook until the pierogi have come to the water's surface, which shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Drain them in a collander, and then remove the boiled pierogi to a cooling rack to completely dry and cool. Keep them from touching, as they can stick.
Choose your preferred method for cooking the pierogi when you're ready to eat them. The last about five days in the refrigerator, or up to three months in the freezer. As if you have that much patience.
Note: Boil a few batches of your dough scraps for some tasty, plump homemade noodles. Hey, you could even use them to make this tasty dish!

Fillings

Potato and cheese: Make a small batch of mashed potatoes according to your preferred method, then spoon a bit of the potatoes into each pierogi along with a small slice of Velveeta.
Sweet cheese: Mix 1 c dry cottage cheese (farmer's cheese), a dash of salt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1-2 tbsp sugar, and 1 egg yolk.
Sauerkraut
Pie cherries
Sweet cabbage and cheese: Saute shredded cabbage in butter until cooked, then spoon a bit of the cabbage into each pierogi along with a small slice of Velveeta.

1 comment:

Amy's Mom said...

These were delicious. It's not nearly so intimidating to make pierogi if you're not making a hundred or more.