Growing up, I never ate pierogi even though I’m a quarter percent Ukrainian. As I’ve mentioned before, my Ukrainian heritage is somewhat mysterious (i.e. unknown) and so the Ukrainian culture never played a role in my childhood, especially in regards to food. Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine-well, I can help you there.
A couple of years ago my parents got me a Ukrainian cookbook and while I made a couple of things from it, I’m not sure why I never attempted pierogi. But with the success of my dumplings around the world kick that I inaugurated last fall, they seemed like the perfect first item to make in the new year.
In case you’re lacking on the pierogi knowledge front, they’re basically filled dumplings of Eastern European origin. They’re made by wrapping pockets of unleavened dough around a savory or sometimes sweet filling and then cooking them in boiling water. Although they’re typical throughout the Slavic and Baltic regions, they’re quite popular in Poland and Ukraine where they’re considered national dishes (in Ukraine they are known as varenyky). Filling options run the course featuring everything from potato (the most common I’d say) to sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, and even fruits.
I’ve eaten a lot of pierogi over the past couple of years including everything from Mrs. T’s (okay, I’ve stopped buying them since I know I can do infinitely better) to ones from a local takeout place in the Pittsburgh suburbs to pre-made ones I’ve bought from a Polish grocery store in the city’s Strip District (these might be my favorite). In cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland that became the home to thousands of Eastern European immigrants during the immigration heyday of the 20th century, pierogis are often an item on restaurant menus and in the case of Michael Symon’s Lola restaurant, in the most daring of ways.
As is often the case when making something new for the first time, it was not as bad or intimidating as I feared. It’s not a quick cooking endeavor and yet something you can be proud of when finished. Luckily I found a great recipe that I followed to a T and so with this being my first attempt, I don’t think they came out half bad, in looks or in taste.
The Red Headed Traveler’s observations and suggestions:
- Start the filling step long before everything else since once the potatoes are mashed and the cheese is mixed in, it needs to come to room temperature before you can assemble the pierogi.
- A food processor is not necessary to use. You may need to add some extra water if the dough is too dry when making it (I did).
- Make sure you roll your dough out to as thin as you can make it. I thought I had done an okay job, however, the dough was definitely on the thicker side. I’m sure it’s more of an art one needs to master.
- Serve along with a copious amount of fried onions and bacon, and butter. Lots of butter (an amount that would make Julia Child herself proud).