Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Guest Chef- Katie and the Soroka Family Pierogies

Since I have never made, or even eaten, a pierogi in my life, when my friend Katie asked if I'd like to come over and learn how, I jumped at the idea! You know me- if it's food I'm all for it, and learning something new is always a great opportunity. Since she and I started having our weekend cooking days we had only made treats- with the holidays and baking and candy-making, it just seemed normal. Now that all the celebrating and festivities are behind us we decided we should focus less on sweets and more on other foods and meals, traditional family recipes and maybe even some healthy recipes.

The Soroka family has a long history of making pierogies. Katie's great grandmother used to make this dish for special occasions, and it was passed down to Katie's grandmother and grandfather, and then her uncle, who then taught Katie how to make them. This family tradition graces the Soroka table at Christmas and New Years.

Pierogies are widely thought of as the national dish of Poland. While lots of other European countries have their own versions of the dish, Poland and the Ukraine are considered to be the places of origin of these tasty dumplings. There is no standard filling either. Whatever the cook likes and has on hand goes inside- often with mashed potato. Meats and vegetables, sometimes cheese, go inside and they are often topped with sour cream, applesauce or fried onion. Seriously, at this point, what is NOT to love about these dumplings? Katie got the idea to try a dessert version too, and we decided to go with tart cherries as the filling. A little research tells me we didn't invent this idea, but it was pretty darn good.

When Katie and I were working out the details of our cooking, i.e. what can I bring, what do you need, she asked if I would grab some butter. "Sure," I said without hesitation. "How much do you need?' I asked, and her answer almost knocked me off my chair! "4 or 5 pounds," she said. Yes my friends, you read that right. Pounds. Not cups. Pounds. Now before anyone has a heart attack and starts to lecture us on the heart attack you think we will surely have after dinner let me just say- while this IS a rich and buttery and in no way a low fat dish, you don't actually consume all that butter. In fact, Katie and I were kicking around ideas for using the butter once the pierogies were gone. Lobster tail, of course, was the first suggestion. Crab legs, scampi, heck even just spoon it into a jar and use it for cooking and baking. In reality you could use a lot less butter, but today we are making it the Soroka family way.

As I said, I have never made, nor eaten pierogies, but I have seen them around. Little small ravioli-type dumplings like half-moons that I see in the frozen food section. People boil or microwave them, then saute in a little butter to brown them and eat as a side dish. This is not the authentic Polish way at all! These pierogies are the meal and are served as the main dish, not reheated and served alongside something else like an afterthought. They certainly aren't little half-moons either. These are some serious dumplings with loads of filling. Watching Katie fill the first one clued me in- I was in for a real treat. Like so many traditional family recipes, a lot of the process is eyeballing ingredients and mixing things "til it looks right." Katie measured things as I was writing notes so it would be easy to share the recipe with all of you.

To make the Soroka family piergoies, you will need:

5 lbs potatoes
1 quart sauerkraut
3-4 lbs butter
flour- approx. 10 cups plus more for rolling, divided
eggs- plan on a dozen
milk- plan on at least 1 cup, divided

Start the butter by placing 3 lbs of butter in a large roasting pan. Place in a 250 degree oven to melt. You will be adding the boiled pierogi to the butter bath after they are boiled.

I wasn't kidding! That is 3 pounds of butter in the pan.
Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Boil in salted water until tender.

Drain and mash with a bit of butter. Drain the kraut completely and mix into the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Potato kraut filling, top, and potato beef filling, bottom.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Pop the lid on and hold at a very low boil.

For the dough, start with 3 cups of flour, 3 eggs and 1/4 cup milk in the bowl of a stand mixer (you CAN make the pasta dough by hand but using a stand mixer is much much easier), attach the dough hook and begin mixing the dough on low speed, gradually bumping up the speed as the dough comes together and you hear the machine struggle a bit. Keep the milk handy in case you need to dribble a little bit more in there. The goal is a somewhat stiff, smooth and non-sticky dough.

Pull the dough off in ping pong ball sized pieces and roll out on a floured surface. You want the dough to be thin but not quite as thin as, say, a wonton wrapper. Scoop about 2-4 tablespoons filling onto the dough in a loaf shape.

Pull the dough up and over to cover the filling. Trim the edge of the dough to about 1/4 inch beyond the filling and pinch and turn over to seal. 

Continue with remaining dough and filling. You will need to make a second batch of dough. You can cook the pierogies as you make them (3 or 4 at a time) or make them all, cover with a towel, and cook them when they are all assembled. It also helps to have a helper- someone to roll dough while you fill. I was the designated roller while Katie filled and crimped the pierogies and got them going in the boiling water.

These are no teeny tiny dumplings- these are HUGE!
*Note- Katie does not moisten the dough edges to seal, but if you like you can, use water, milk or an egg wash.

Add the pierogies to the boiling water a few at a time. Boil them gently until they rise to the top of the pot. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the melted butter. Hold in the butter int he 250 degree oven until all the pierogies are cooked.

Now one of Katie's son is not a fan of kraut, so she also made a beef and potato filling for him, using browned ground beef that was drained and mixed with the mashed potato, and of course, Katie's brilliant suggestion, the cherry-filled dessert pierogies. I just have to say, what a stroke of brilliance. We DID use one cheat product- canned cherry pie filling- but everything else was totally homemade and dreamed up in the kitchen as we went along.

Katie made another batch of dough, using 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs and the milk. I rolled out smaller circles of dough for the dessert version, which she filled with the cherries, folded over, crimped the edges and into the boiling water they went.

For the butter sauce, Katie ladled some of the melted butter from the big roasting pan of pierogies into a 9x13 baking pan. Into the butter went a couple teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of honey, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. 

After rising to the top of the water, remove them with a slotted spoon into the cinnamony butter mixture and pop in the oven for a good 15-20 minutes to get all the flavors married. 

The dessert pierogies were served with small scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream. 

Around the edge of the dish the butter mixture chilled and clung to the ice cream like that Magic Shell. It just tasted incredible. The dessert version was declared a HUGE success. We oohed and ahhed and already are dreaming up new fruit versions for next time. Can't wait !!!

No comments:

Post a Comment