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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pierogies - Delicious Little Pains in the Ass

I recently decided that it was time to expose my husband to his first eastern European cuisine.  Coming from northwestern Pennsylvania, I am no stranger to these foreign tastes.  There is even a very reputable Polish restaurant in my hometown called Pierogi Palace, serving up haluski, cwikla, and of course, every variety of pierogi a girl could want.

Those of you who don't hail from areas with Polish or other eastern European influence might not be familiar with pierogies.  They are soft little pillows of dough, filled with your choice of filling (essentially the same thing as ravioli).  Traditional fillings are potato and cheese or sauerkraut.  The little filled pasta pockets are then fried crisp in butter and served with sour cream.

My adventure making pierogies began one week when hubby was in the field.  I had the whole house to myself and was looking for something to do.  I decided to make pierogies thinking it would be convenient to have them in the freezer ready to prepare for dinner some evening.  While this is true, I had forgotten how much I hate dealing with fresh pasta.  It tastes so much better than dried, it is a pretty big pain in the ass to roll out to your desired thinness without a pasta maker.  And this recipe takes a whole afternoon.  Because you have to make the pasta, you have to make the filling, you have to cut out the pierogies, fill them, boil them, and prepare them for storage.  While not necessarily hard, it is time consuming and will inevitably wreck your nice and clean kitchen.  When I was finished, it looked as though a flour tornado had visited my kitchen. They have indeed turned out to be a convenient dinner to make but this girl will likely be ordering her pierogies from the Pierogi Palace until she gets herself a pasta maker!  But give them a try if you're feeling adventurous!

4 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 8oz container sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
warm water
Desired filling (potato cheddar filling recipe to follow)

In a large bowl, beat eggs, sour cream, and salt.  Stir in flour and warm water, a little at a time, until dough comes together and feels velvety.  Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth.  Cover pasta ball with additional flour to keep from sticking and roll to desired thickness (1/8 to 1/4 inch - depending on the size of your work area, you may need to do this in batches).  Cut into small circles with a biscuit cutter.  Fill each circle with small amount of desired filling,  Fold pasta over filling and seal with a fork.  Boil closed pierogi until cooked (they will float when they are done).

Allow pierogi to cool and dry on wax or parchment paper.  At this time, you can freeze your pierogies for use at a later date or cook for serving.

To freeze:  Place cooled, dry pierogies in a freezer zipper bag.  Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in bag and turn to coat pasta.  This step keeps them from sticking.

Traditional Cooking & Serving Method:  Heat butter in skillet over medium heat.  Add pierogies in a single layer and brown, turning to brown the second side.  Serve with sour cream.

How I prefer to cook and serve pierogies:  Cut 4 strips of bacon into small pieces and chiffonade a handful of fresh sage.  Cook in skillet over medium heat until crispy; remove from pan with slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.  Add sage to skillet and allow to crisp, about one minute.  Add thawed pierogies to skillet and brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side.  Serve with bacon  and grated parmesan sprinkled over pierogies with sour cream on side.

Potato Pierogi Filling
3-4 medium to large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 cups sharp cheddar cheese (to your liking)
white pepper

Boil cubed potatoes until soft.  Whip potatoes with cheddar cheese until melted.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.

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