Testing Out New Cultures

My heritage includes a lot of things.  Mostly German and Sicilian, with smattering of Native American, Irish, and British thrown in for good measure.  I am, by no means, Polish, nor have I ever eaten traditional Polish food.  Flipping through the Feb/Mar issue of Fine Cooking (which is a fabulous reference for interesting recipes and techniques and I recommend it to all of you), I fell upon a recipe for pierogis and decided to give it a shot.  Up until that point, the only experience I had ever had with such a food consisted of the frozen variety that a friend had bought on a trip to Florida a few summers back.  Although I wasn’t really sure what they should taste like, I figured homemade would at least turn out better than that!

I enjoy experimenting with tasting and making different cultures foods.  I love trying out different spices, fruits, and mix ins that traditional American dishes lack.  I also find that cooking foods in which country I am a descendant of allows me to feel closer to my ancestors.  When I spent months making pastas from scratch at Lino’s, I often thought about how my great, great grandparents and beyond must have done similar things back in Sicily.  And not to mention, pierogis are not all too different from the fundamentals of raviolis!

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Please note, my parent’s kitchen is usually spotless, absolutely stunning, in fact.  Some of these photos depict otherwise, but rest assured that is the downside of cooking all day.  Although I am sure they are embarrassed of such a disgrace, if we all assumed their kitchen was always clean, we might start second guessing if they make everything from scratch! 🙂 (They do, by the way).

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I must admit, I was a little disappointed with the underwhelming taste of the pierogis, but that is due to the ingredients I chose to fill it with.  Michael added corned beef to one of his, and he said it was incredible.  I recommend using a more pungent cheese, like bleu or asiago, and adding more veggies and mix ins.  The dough is a great launching point, as it is tasty and delicious, but experiment with the filling!

Potato-Cheese Pierogis (Yields 50-60 pierogis.  I made a half batch, but this is the full batch.)

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in pieces
  • salt
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. cheddar cheese (the recipe calls for farmers cheese, but I prefer cheddar)
  • pepper

For the dough:

  • 7 c flour
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 2 c warm water

Put the potatoes in a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover.  Sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and fall apart when pierced with a fork.  Drain and return the potatoes to the pan, and dry them over medium heat, stirring.  Mash the potatoes until smooth once they look floury and leave a light film on the bottom of the pan (this should take about 3 minutes).  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally  until deep golden brown and soft, about 15-20 minutes.  Add to the potato mixture.  Add cheese, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper and mix until combined.  Let cool to room temperature before using.  (The filling can be made up to a day in advance, providing you cover and refrigerate).

Put the flour in a large bowl and add the butter, working it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of a coarse meal.  Add 1 3/4 c pf war, water and stir with your fingers until the mixture comes together.  If the mixture is dry, add up to 1/4 c more warm water, 1 T at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface, gently kneading until the dough is soft and elastic.  The dough should be an easily shapeable play-doh consistency, but not too smooth.  Avoid over-kneading, or the dough will become tough.

Divide the dough into 6 orange sized balls.  Working with one piece of dough at a time on a floured surface, roll out the dough so it is about 1/8 in thick.  Use a 3 in round biscuit cutter to cut out circles and set on a floured surface, topping them with a sheet of parchment paper so they don’t dry out.  Keep rerolling scraps to get as many circles as you can.

Working with one circle at a time, stretch each out just a little bit, so they are not as stiff.  Fill the center of each circle with about a T of filling.  Pinch the edges together to seal creating a 1/2 in border.  Repeat with remaining circles.  (Filled pierogi can be frozen for up to six months, and refrigerated for two hours)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and fill the pot with about 10-12 pierogis at a time.  Give them a gentle stir so they don’t stick to one another or the pot.  When they float to the top (about 1-2 minutes), transfer them to a prepared skillet (covered with olive oil) and cook, flipping once, until golden brown.  For tastier results, bring skillet to heat before adding pierogis, and cut up scallions or onions to fry along with the pierogi.  Transfer to a platter once golden brown and keep warm in an oven until serving.

Serve with sour cream or applesauce.  Enjoy!

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What’s your favorite food culture?

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4 thoughts on “Testing Out New Cultures

  1. Your parents have a beautiful kitchen (I’d kill for that hob) as for food culture it has to be British Indian – we love curry but many Indian dishes we eat here were invented in Birmingham, not Mumbai!

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