Perogi? Pirogi? Pierogi? No matter how you spell it, these potato-filled dumplings of Eastern European origin (I though they were Polish, but, according to Wikipedia, they are traditional in Hungary and Slovakia, too, just with different names) are delicious. But I had never considered actually making them. My few experiences with any kind of pasta making, specifically, gnocchi and ravioli, have been messy, time consuming and somewhat frustrating. So when my husband told me that he found a pierogi recipe online that he wanted me to try, I was a little nervous. But today I decided that I was up for the challenge.
The pierogi consist of two main components - the dough and the filling. I started with the dough, since it needs to rest in the refrigerator for a while. Using the measurements given in the recipe, I was expecting, as indicated, that the dough would be sticky, and might require additional flour to come together correctly. I am not sure if I mismeasured something, but this was not the case for me - my dough was very dry, to the point that I couldn't even bring it together in a ball. It was a slight give and take game of adding drops of water and sprinklings of flour, but soon enough, I had a beautiful ball of very stiff dough ready to head into the fridge.
Dough resting, it was time to switch gears to the filling. Making the filling was very straightforward - boil potatoes and mash them with grated cheddar cheese. A little salt, a little pepper, season them to taste, and there you have it. It was very odd for me to mash potatoes without, you know, butter and milk, but the goal here wasn't mashed potatoes, it was pierogi filling, so thick was good. All ingredients mashed and mixed together, it was time to let the filling cool to room temperature.
Both main components done, I was feeling pretty confident. Then I realized that the real work was all ahead of me. So here comes the picture-heavy part of the process.
The dough ball was rolled out into a long snake and cut into 24 pieces. At first I was nervous that my little ball of dough wouldn't make 24 pieces big enough to make good pierogi, but it really surprised me. The fun aspect of this part of the process, as well, was getting in some counting practice for little miss. Each time I cut a section of dough, she counted the pieces for me, and helped me to know when we had reached our goal of 24. See? It wasn't just a cooking project, it was a math lesson, too!
Once we had the proper number of almost-equal-sized pieces cut, it was time to roll them into balls. Yes, we both washed our hands very well first. Little miss loves any cooking project that involves using her hands, so this was right up her alley. This also made the next step of the process even more exciting for her. The recipe called for each of these 24 balls to be flattened out... by hand. Oh yes, this gave little miss the opportunity to squish those balls of dough flat however she saw fit. Some she squished with her palm, others she beat down more with the side of her fist, and we used our fingertips to help shape the flattened balls into the right-sized circles to be filled with the potato and cheese filling and folded over into semi-circles for our pierogi.
Once the pierogi were filled and folded, the edges had to be crimped with a fork. Little miss was fascinated to see this done, and even more excited to help me do it. She got the hang of it super quickly, too, and this soon became her job, as I worked on shaping and filling the dumplings.
I soon found that flattening the dough by hand, while definitely fun, was not the most efficient way to get the job done. We soon graduated to rolling pins, which helped speed the process a bit, not to mention produced a slightly more even circle of dough for the filling. The process was, as with my other pasta making endeavors in the past, a bit time consuming and a little bit messy, but once we established a rhythm, we were able to produce 24 decently rolled, filled, folded and crimped pierogi.
We're not done.
Now these have to be cooked. Cooking these pierogi is a two step process. First, they are boiled. I'd love to give you exact times, but really, you just put them, in small batches, into the boiling water and wait for them to rise up to the top of the pot. Then they are removed from the pot to drain, to await step two:
Browning in butter. Yes, pan frying them. Again, I would love to give exact timing, but really, I just watched them as they cooked and waited for each side to turn slightly golden. I cooked them in batches, since there was no way that 24 pierogi would fit into the pan at one time. By the time I had them all lightly golden, I set 12 aside and returned the other 12 to the pan with carmelized vidalia onion to finish cooking while I made everything else we would be having for dinner.
So after all that work, how did they turn out? Well, I was nervous at first, when little miss ate, literally, everything else on her plate before even touching hers, but after the first bite, she turned to me and said "Mmmmmm!!! Mommy, these are delicious!!!" And daddy said pretty much the same thing. So these were definitely worth the work. I will definitely make these again, and I am really looking forward to playing with different flavors and ingredients for the filling, too. Yum.
4 months ago