Pierogi, the quintessential Polish dumpling, is a dish that has been passed down through generations. This article will guide you through the process of making homemade pierogi, using a recipe that comes from a Polish grandmother. We will explore the ingredients, the preparation, and the cooking process, as well as some tips and tricks to make your pierogi perfect.
What Are Pierogi?
Pierogi, pronounced ‘puh-row-gee’, is one of Poland’s most beloved dishes and a favorite in Eastern Europe. These dumplings are made by filling a flour-based dough with a variety of sweet or savory fillings. This article focuses on the traditional potato and cheese pierogi, often served with sour cream, caramelized onions, and butter.
The secret to perfect pierogi lies in the ingredients. The dough is soft and less dense than pasta, remaining tender even after cooking. The filling is a smooth mixture of potatoes and cheddar cheese, with a hint of finely diced sautéed onions.
For the Dough:
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups cold water (divided)
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the Filling:
- 3 ¾ pounds baking potatoes
- 1 medium white onion (finely diced)
- ⅓ cup softened butter (divided)
- 4 ½ cups cheddar cheese (finely shredded)
- Salt to taste
- White pepper to taste (or very fine black pepper)
- 1 onion (diced or thinly sliced)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or as needed for frying)
- Sour cream (optional, for serving)
Making the Dough
The dough for pierogi is unique. It requires a delicate balance of ingredients and careful handling to achieve the right consistency.
- In a large bowl, add flour, eggs, oil, salt, and 1 ½ cups of water. Mix well to form a dough, adding more water if needed.
- Knead the dough on a flat surface for about 4 to 5 minutes or until it becomes smooth and pliable.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Preparing the Filling
The filling for these traditional pierogi is a creamy blend of potatoes and cheddar cheese.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch cubes. Place them in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 15 minutes or until fork tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, cook the onions in 2 tablespoons butter until tender without browning.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, place them in a large bowl and mash them. Add onions, cheese, and remaining butter. Continue mashing until the potatoes become very smooth.
Assembling the Pierogi
Once you have your dough and filling ready, it’s time to assemble the pierogi.
- Using half of the dough, roll it out ⅛” thick. Cut out circles of dough using a 3″ cookie or biscuit cutter.
- Scoop 1 ½ tablespoons of filling and roll into a ball, place on the pierogi dough. Fold the dough over to form a semi-circle and pinch the edges closed. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat. The pierogi can either be cooked or frozen at this point.
Cooking the Pierogi
After assembling the pierogi, they are ready to be cooked.
- Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add diced onions and cook on medium-low heat until tender. Remove onions from the pan and set aside for serving.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add pierogies and cook until they float, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Transfer pierogies to the hot skillet (adding more butter if needed) and cook until browned on each side, about 5 minutes.
- Serve warm with onions and sour cream.
Freezing and Storing Pierogi
One of the great things about pierogi is that they freeze beautifully.
- Once assembled, place pierogies on a parchment-covered baking sheet in a single layer and freeze.
- Once frozen, place them into a zippered bag with the date written on the outside. No need to thaw before boiling, cook right from frozen.
Pierogi can be served as a main dish or a side dish. This section will provide some serving suggestions, including what to pair with your homemade pierogi for a complete meal.
Making homemade pierogi is a labor of love, but the result is worth every minute spent in the kitchen. With this guide, you can carry on the tradition of making these delicious dumplings at home.
What are some variations of pierogi fillings?
Pierogi fillings can be incredibly diverse, allowing for a lot of creativity. While the traditional filling is a mixture of potato and cheese, other popular fillings include sauerkraut, mushrooms, ground meat, and even fruit for a sweet version. The choice of filling can be adapted to personal preference and seasonal ingredients.
Why is my pierogi dough tough?
If your pierogi dough is tough, it could be due to over-kneading or not enough resting time. Over-kneading develops the gluten in the flour, which can result in a tough dough. Similarly, not allowing the dough to rest can cause it to be tough. It’s recommended to knead the dough until it’s smooth and then let it rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Can I use a different type of cheese for the filling?
Absolutely! While cheddar cheese is commonly used in traditional pierogi, you can experiment with other types of cheese. Cream cheese, ricotta, or even blue cheese can add a different flavor profile to your pierogi. Just remember to consider the moisture content of the cheese, as it can affect the texture of the filling.
How can I prevent my pierogi from opening while cooking?
To prevent your pierogi from opening while cooking, make sure to seal the edges properly. You can do this by pinching the edges together firmly. Some people also like to use a fork to crimp the edges, which not only ensures a good seal but also gives the pierogi a decorative edge.
Can I bake pierogi instead of boiling and pan-frying them?
While boiling and then pan-frying is the traditional method of cooking pierogi, they can also be baked. To bake pierogi, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C), place the pierogi on a baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Baking results in a slightly different texture, with a crispier exterior.
What other sauces can I serve with pierogi?
While sour cream is a traditional accompaniment to pierogi, there are other sauces that pair well with these dumplings. A brown butter sauce, a creamy mushroom sauce, or even a tomato-based sauce can add a different dimension of flavor. For sweet pierogi, consider serving them with a dollop of whipped cream or a drizzle of honey.