I'm proposing the perfect candidate for chasing away the I'm-tired-of-casserole/ boiled-dinner/stew blues: pierogi, little ribsticking stuffed dumplings.
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Enjoy these recipes for stuffed pierogi pastry, an old-world entree guaranteed to brighten winter menus.
Unfortunately, about the time of year when dinner starts to
become the highlight of an otherwise drab winter day, the
meals—alas—often seem to be infected by the
sameness of the gray weather. And when that happens, it's
time for the chief cook to broaden his or her recipe
repertoire. (Of course, if the resulting new dish is
delicious, relatively inexpensive to prepare, filling, and
unusual enough to intrigue the jaded palates of
adults—yet not repel the suspicious tastebuds of
small fry—so much the better.)
Well, I'm proposing the perfect candidate for chasing away
the I'm-tired-of-casserole/ boiled-dinner/stew blues:
pierogi, little ribsticking stuffed dumplings. They're
among my family's favorite cold-weather foods, and I'm
pretty confident that these recipes for stuffed pierogi pastry will get a warm reception at your
dinner table, too. The recipe was passed along to me by my
Ukrainian grandmother, and will probably look familiar to
folks of Slavic descent.
The name (it's also spelled "pirogi" and "pieroghi") is the
plural form of the Russian word pirog, which means a small
turnover or pie. And although the Russians claim credit for
developing this particular dish, one form or another of the
dumpling—including Italian ravioli and American fried
pies—appears in almost every nation's cuisine.
PIEROGI PASTRY RECIPE
My recipe is slightly time-consuming, so it might be a good
idea to prepare it the day before you actually want to
serve your pierogi, or at least to set aside an afternoon
in which to tackle it. There are two parts to the
turnovers, so I'll start with instructions for making the
dough. You'll need these ingredients:
3 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg (slightly beaten)
3/4 cup of water
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, add the slightly
beaten egg, and then stir in just enough water to make a
ball of dough. The pastry will be stiff, but you should be
able to roll it out, using a little muscle (if it's really
unmanageable, add another splash of water). Lightly flour a
board or countertop, and roll the dough to an even 1/8 inch to
1/16 inch in thickness.
Once that's done, cut out some circles, using a 3 inch-diameter
biscuit cutter or perhaps the floured rim of a glass.
(Actually, I prefer to slice the
pastry—freehand—into small rectangles, using a
sharp knife, since this practice allows me to make use of
odd sections and all but eliminates the need for kneading
and rerolling scraps.)
FANCIFUL PIEROGI FILLINGS
In the center of each pastry section, place a teaspoonful
of stuffing. Just about anything that suits your family
makes an appropriate filling. My personal favorite is
mashed potatoes (don't add any liquid), into which I stir
grated cheddar cheese, minced onion, and salt and pepper to
taste. Another popular stuffing consists of 1 cup of
farmer's or cottage cheese mixed with an egg, herbs, and
salt and pepper.
If you'd prefer a more traditional flavor, however, try
sauerkraut—drained and chopped—combined with
minced onion, mushrooms, sour cream, and salt and pepper.
Or, if you have lots of time, you can reconstitute dried
black Japanese mushrooms and simmer them with minced onion.
Then add some black bread crumbs to the mushrooms, and stir
in chopped-up hard-boiled egg, sour cream, and seasonings
to taste. (Needless to say, you can experiment with
different meat, vegetable, and cheese combinations in order
to find a few that please your resident gourmets.)
HOW TO WRAP-UP A PIEROGI
After you've placed the filling on the cutout pastry, fold
the dough in half to form a semicircle (or a squarish
little package if you've cut rectangles), then moisten and
crimp the edges to seal them firmly.
Now, fill a large kettle with water and place it on high
heat. Once the liquid starts to boil frantically, drop the
pierogi—a few at a time—into the container.
Then, when the little turnovers float to the top (it'll
take one or two minutes), they'll be done. Remove each one
with a slotted spoon and set it aside to drain in a
colander or on a towel.
When all of the dumplings are cooked, melt half a cup of
butter in a large, heavy frying pan and sauce the pastries
until they're piping hot. The finished pierogi can then be
adorned with sour cream or yogurt . . . or topped with
browned bread crumbs for an interesting contrast in
Pierogi can be stored in the refrigerator for four or five
days or frozen for up to six months. If you do decide to
freeze the turnovers, though, be sure to remove them from
the boiling water and drain them on a terry (or linen)
towel until they're thoroughly dry. Then package and freeze
the little pieces. When you're ready to serve the stored
delicacies, boil them again until they float, and finish up
with the same butter bath and toppings already described.
Once you've learned how to make these dumplings, you'll
find that pierogi are at home almost anywhere on a menu. So
give these versatile little turnovers a chance. Who knows .
. . instead of grimly dishing out a casserole and daring
your diners not to finish it, you may wind up worrying
whether you're going to have enough pierogi for seconds!