May

7

2012

The Duo’s Ethnic Exploration: Polish

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Pierogi Ruskie (Cheese Curd and Potato Pierogi), Cheddar and Paprika Pierogi

Poultry & Pork • Tags: , , , ,

Pierogi Dough - The Duo Dishes

When I was a kid, one of my favorite snacks were frozen pierogi. I would slide down the frozen food aisle, pop open the glass door and grab a bag of Mrs. T’s frozen potato dumplings. At that time, I had no idea that pierogis were traditional Polish delicacies or even that what I was eating had a true connection to another culture different than mine. I just knew that the creamy potatoes in a half moon of soft dough tasted good with applesauce and sour cream. Fast forward 20 years, and I’ve just had pierogis again following a long break from my childhood favorites. Amir and I decided to explore the making of pierogis for this month’s Ethnic Exploration. There may have been one small snafu, but after a second go ’round, we got it just right.


Last month, we shared Korean dumplings, mandu, and now we have another dumpling of sorts–the Polish pierogi. Unknown to us, mostly because we do not speak a lick of Polish, pierogi is the plural form of this word. Now, after doing research, that does make sense. You will rarely see anyone talking about piergoi in the singular format (pieróg for all of you language lovers out there), and why would they? Pierogi are like Pringles, in theory that is. Once you eat one, you’ll probably want another. And another. Almost every culture has a dumpling, or at least a dish that consists of stuffed and cooked dough, within the walls of their culinary offerings. Pierogi are just that. They are boiled and pan fried or baked circles of dough stuffed with meat, cheese, fruit or vegetables. The most common version that many Americans are used to goes by the term pierogi ruskie . They are the cheese and potato-filled delicacies that are readily available in your freezer section and most likely at your neighborhood Polish restaurant.

Pierogi First Batch - The Duo Dishes

Here's the first batch of pierogi. They look a bit like empanadas, don't they? No bueno.

Bacon Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

Frying up slices of thick-cut bacon! Make sure you save the grease.

Onions Bacon Fat - The Duo Dishes

This is why you saved that grease. It's time to cook the onions.

Maybe you immediately think the name pierogi ruskie refers to the Russians, and they should be credited for the creation of the pierogi? Unfortunately, that would be wrong. The name is a reminder of the original region that went by the name of Ruthenia, which years ago comprised areas of Ukraine. Due to Poland’s history of being a nation conquered by many and also serving as a new land for new settlers, there is the possibility of various streams of influence from the Russians to the Rusyns and the Lithuanians to the Ukranians. Everybody wants to be the first to claim ownership of a popular dish that finds so many similarities between culture lines. Unfortunately, that is difficult to do with pierogi. What we can say is that they have almost become synonymous with the country of Poland, and they are one of Poland’s national dishes. To top it all off, there is a patron saint for pierogi–St. Hyacinth. Legend has it that he used to offer pierogi to the poor and starving. If you learn how to say “Swiety Jacek z pierogami!”–it roughly translates to “Holy smokes”–people may even think you’re a native.

Potato Filling Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

Here is the start of the potato filling. You can see the bits of cooked onion in there.

So here we are, playing around with our own pierogi. Our first unleavened dough attempt was not the best. Most traditional recipes call for a dough made simply of flour, eggs, salt and water. Our version was a bit dry, and something about it just did not mesh with our desire to eat delicious pierogi. With a scrunched up and perplexed face, I watched Amir try to knead the crumbly mixture into a ball with no luck. Back to the drawing board. After consulting with our Twitter friends, Joanne of Eats Well with Others said she used a great recipe from Chef Michael Symon. It incorporated sour cream and butter into the dough, which obviously creates something much more pliable and soft. Though slightly sticky and demanding of a very well-floured rolling surface, it proved to be a better option in the long run.

Fresh Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

Pierogi, pierogi, lined up in a row. They still look like empanadas, but...they're not.

Now the fillings for pierogi run the gamut, as we said before. Anything you love to eat can be mixed and match to form your favorite stuffing, and yes, that includes fruits, jams and other sweets. Savory pierogi feel like the beginnings of a hearty dinner, so we went in that direction with two versions. The first is the traditional pierogi ruskie with potatoes, onions and our modern day substitute for fresh cheese curds–cottage cheese. Nutmeg and caraway are popular spices in Polish food, and they both blend well with potatoes. They were tossed into the recipe’s dough for extra flavor. The alternate version started as the potato and onion mixture with a handful of cheddar cheese thrown in towards the end. The dough we used for these pierogi was seasoned with paprika for both color, aroma and flavor. Here’s another tip that pertains to the dough’s texture and the boiling process. Once the pierogi have been formed, we put them in the freezer for a quick chill before popping them in the hot water. They were easier to handle, and cold butter helps the dough stay in better formation. Of course, you could pop them, covered, into your fridge and boil after a few hours or the next day. You could also boil them, pat dry, cover, pop them into the fridge and pan fry after a few hours or the next day. Do what works best for you.

Floating Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

Time for a pierogi bath.

Boiled Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

A bit wrinkly, here are the freshly boil pierogi.

It’s possible that the final dish just looks like a plate of dough shapes, but that would be the simple explanation. What’s really going on is a plate of soft yet crisped, potato-filled, cheesey, spiced dough shapes fried in butter and bacon fat, then topped with caramelized onions, bacon, scallions and sour cream. That is the delicious explanation. You could reduce the calories in this recipe by using nonstick spray or olive oil, eliminating the bacon and using Greek yogurt as a topping. We decided to go the complete Polish way, and for this day only, there was no other way.

 

Pierogi Ruskie and Cheddar Pierogi - The Duo Dishes

Pierogi Ruskie (Cheese Curd and Potato Pierogi) – Approximately 4 dozen (Dough inspired by Michael Symon)
Dough
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons minced scallions
2 cups flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks and boiled
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if necessary
1 cup crumbled farmer’s cheese or well drained cottage cheese
Vegetable oil, optional
Toppings, optional (ie. sour cream or creme fraiche, scallions, applesauce, etc.)

1. For the dough, beat the egg, sour cream, butter and scallions in an electric mixer until well combined. Stir in the flour, salt, nutmeg and caraway seeds until incorporated, but do not over mix. Split the dough into two pieces, and wrap each one in wax paper. Chill for two hours.

2. For the filling, heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over a medium high flame. Add half of the diced onions and cook until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, mashing them as they cook to create a smooth mixture. Stir in the salt and cheese, cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Cool completely.

3. Cook the bacon in a pan over medium high heat until it browns and crisps, approximately 7-9 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Scoop out the cooked bacon and allow it to cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Save the bacon grease in the pan.

4. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. The dough may be sticky, so flour the rolling pin if necessary. Cut out 3″ circles with a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Dollop about 1 tablespoon of the filling in to the center, then fold over one edge of dough to create a half moon shape. Crimp the round edge of the dough closed with a fork. Turn over and repeat the crimping on the opposite side to make sure it is closed. Lay the pierog on a sheet of wax paper and repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Once done, chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or pop into the freezer for about 5 minutes.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. You can add a bit of vegetable oil, if desired, to keep them from sticking to each other. Drop the pierogi into the water in small batches allowing them to cook and float to the surface, approximately 2-3 minutes. Remove the pierogi from the pan with a slotted spoon and lay on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. (At this point, the pierogi can be cooled completely, placed in an airtight container on layers of wax paper and cooked in small batches when desired.)

6. Reheat the reserved bacon fat over medium flame, and add the last tablespoon of butter. Add the remaining diced onion once the pan is hot and cook until they have softened and begin to caramelize, approximately 7-9 minutes. Stir as necessary to prevent burning. Move the onions to the outside edge of the pan, and fry the pierogi 4-5 at a time, on both sides, for 1-2 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve hot with the onions, cooked bacon and additional toppings, as desired.

Cheddar and Paprika Pierogi – Approximately 4 dozen (Dough inspired by Michael Symon)
Dough
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons minced scallions
2 cups flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks and boiled
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if necessary
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 pound bacon, sliced into 1/2″ strips
Vegetable oil, optional
Toppings, optional (ie. sour cream or creme fraiche, scallions, applesauce, etc.)

1. For the dough, beat the egg, sour cream, butter and scallions in an electric mixer until well combined. Stir in the flour, salt, paprika and black pepper until incorporated, but do not over mix. Split the dough into two pieces, and wrap each one in wax paper. Chill for two hours.

2. For the filling, heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over a medium high flame. Add half of the diced onions and cook until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, mashing them as they cook to create a smooth mixture. Stir in the salt and cheese, cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Cool completely.

3. Cook the bacon in a pan over medium high heat until it browns and crisps, approximately 7-9 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Scoop out the cooked bacon and allow it to cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Save the bacon grease in the pan.

4. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. The dough may be sticky, so flour the rolling pin if necessary. Cut out 3″ circles with a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Dollop about 1 tablespoon of the filling in to the center, then fold over one edge of dough to create a half moon shape. Crimp the round edge of the dough closed with a fork. Turn over and repeat the crimping on the opposite side to make sure it is closed. Lay the pierog on a sheet of wax paper and repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Once done, chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or pop into the freezer for about 5 minutes.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. You can add a bit of vegetable oil, if desired, to keep them from sticking to each other. Drop the pierogi into the water in small batches allowing them to cook and float to the surface, approximately 2-3 minutes. Remove the pierogi from the pan with a slotted spoon and lay on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. (At this point, the pierogi can be cooled completely, placed in an airtight container on layers of wax paper and cooked in small batches when desired.)

6. Reheat the reserved bacon fat over medium flame, and add the last tablespoon of butter. Add the remaining diced onion once the pan is hot and cook until they have softened and begin to caramelize, approximately 7-9 minutes. Stir as necessary to prevent burning. Move the onions to the outside edge of the pan, and fry the pierogi 4-5 at a time, on both sides, for 1-2 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve hot with the onions, cooked bacon and additional toppings, as desired.

Click HERE for printable recipes.

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Comments

11 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. How beautiful! You know I never had pierogi until I was in college. They served them at the cafeteria and this non-potato-lover suddenly was in love with a plateful of these suckers drenched in onions and butter. When my husband and I were dating he lived in Queens and we adored eating at this little Polish coffee shop on his street that make 7 or 8 different types of pierogi. I think between the time we met and the time we married and I got him to move to the ‘burbs, I managed to try them all.

    Never thought to attempt cooking them all though. Both of your effort looks wonderful! I applaud you heartily.

    I always wondered if pierogi was plural. I tended to treat it that way, but I was just applying the rules of Italian.

    Reply

  2. I re-read your post… and later found there are 2 recipes in here. It is not clear that one recipe is vegeterian and another isn’t.

    But still you should re-check your recipes, because the vegeterian one, mentions bacon in Step #3 in the directions.

    Reply

  3. Polish food is big here, but I have yet to try it. This sounds like a good start to make at home.

    Reply

  4. I had pierogi for the first time a few years ago and immediately fell in love. While I’ve only had the frozen kind, I can only imagine how amazing these would be. I seriously drooled over the plated pierogi with all that bacon!

    Reply

  5. I absolutely love that cheddar and paprika version. Brilliant!

    Reply

  6. I’m mostly polish and have never made pierogi (enjoyed my fair share in the frozen food section as a kid too!). I feel like a complete terd bucket for not making them… I need to remedy this!

    Reply

  7. The combination of flavors sounds intriguing

    Reply

  8. I’m so glad the Symon dough ended up working out for you! I have to try those cheddar and paprika pierogi…it’s been too long since I’ve had those potato dumplings!

    Reply

  9. They look fantastic! I haven’t had a lot of Polish food but what I’ve tried I’ve really enjoyed :)

    Reply

  10. The dough sounds amazing and the filling just divine. When I first saw them I thought they were empanadas but I really like the potato filling. Thanks again for taking us along in your world culinary journeys.

    Reply

  11. Oh I have bough my fair share of the frozen pierogi too lol. I made some once from scratch too. Your do look wonderful. I saw a restaurant serving a poutine with pierogi instead of fries..hog fest.

    Reply

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