Before I even start this post on how to make home-made pierogi, I think it’s appropriate to get a couple of housekeeping items out of the way: first off, a year has passed since I first posted an abomination of a recipe on my site, and at this point in time I feel disgusted with myself. I clearly should have listened to my own advice and not eaten every single stupid thing I’ve cooked over the last 12 months, but that would have been far too easy.
Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming two new additions to my life, namely a gut that has heightened my maternal instincts towards small children as well as a second chin that I’ve conveniently named Chuck. I also grew a beard that resulted in more hair in my food than usual, which I then shaved…because I was getting more hair in my food than usual.
All else aside, I’m back in Winnipeg starting a second glorious year of law school, eating poorly, and pretending that I will make some time to go to the gym in order to get rid of gut and Chuck. And this time around I have a great kitchen to cook in, so “expect” more recipes to be posted in the near future.
I’m almost certain you could trace the ancestry of pierogi back to an adventurous bowl of mashed potatoes getting freaky with a very open-minded plate of pizza. I don’t see any other reasonable explanation in stuffing mashed potatoes into really soft pizza dough, boiling it, and then pan-frying it. Truth be told I’m far too ignorant and lazy to find out the history of pierogi, so I’ll conveniently leave a link to the Wikipedia page here.
The extent of my knowledge on the topic of pierogi is that:
- Every country claims they invented pierogi;
- Every country claims that their pierogi are the best,
- Eastern Europeans are willing to kill you if you disagree with number 2, and
- The second you have grand-children your pierogi making skills go through the roof and you will be known as the Babushka of the family.
If this doesn’t sound familiar to you then I don’t blame you, because I didn’t actually bother reading the Wikipedia article above myself.
So why would I bother making pierogi when I could simply seek adoption by a friendly Ukrainian family that will not only make pierogi, but will also teach my first, second, and third wives (not at the same time, of course) how to make the pierogi for me? That’s actually a really good question that I don’t have an answer to, but my motivation for making them this time around is that supermarkets are charging an arm and a leg for decent pierogi – and I’m all about frugal these days. That, and I just got the bill from my hosting service so I should probably post stuff on my site.
With that said, let’s jump right into it!
So pierogi consist of two separate and distinct parts: the outer dough and the inner filling. While the dough recipe is pretty much the same no matter where you look, it’s the filling where people tend to get crafty. If you’re lazy, you can stuff it with cut-up hot dogs and call it a day; if you’re adventurous you might consider filling it with cabbage and your favourite drugs; today however I will be filling the pierogi with some good old fashioned bacon and mashed potato.
For the dough, you’ll need:
- 3 eggs (2 eggs + 1 yolk)
- Sour cream (1 cup)
- 3 cups of flour (2 for dough, 1 for keeping it from sticking everywhere)
- salt (some, I actually really don’t know how much)
- baking powder (1 tablespoon)
For my filling, I’ll be using:
- Bacon (2/3 of a pack)
- Potatoes (4? Sure, 4)
- Onion (3-4)
If you want to make good pierogi, then you could probably whip all the ingredients together and be ready to eat within 45 minutes. If you want to make GREAT pierogi, however, you’ll have to pretend that you’re a mother of 12 that home-schools her children and doesn’t have time to make food, which means you’ll make the filling a day in advance. The reason I say this is because the filling, at the time of cooking, needs to be relatively cold in order to avoid the whole dumpling dissolving during cooking issue – so consider yourself warned.
The filling I made for the pierogi was nothing more than mashed potatoes on crack. I used 4 large potatoes as a base, overcooked them to oblivion, and then added butter, milk, and the rest of the fried and browned ingredients, as well as the cheese. I had plenty to spare based on the recipe above, so if you want to break even on your dough-to-filling ratio, just use half of the ingredients I said to use for the filling.
Before anything, you’ll want to bring a lightly salted pot of water to a boil for your potatoes, and have 2 pans pre-heated – one with oil and another without – for your onions and your bacon.
Step one, as always, is to cut the onions and remember every painful childhood memory you had growing up. One thing that really made me cry this time was that I remembered how much fun school used to be back in grades 1 to 3, and how drastically that has changed in the last 20 years.
You like the knife wielding technique? I call that the blind man’s grip. Three onions seem excessive, and that’s because they are. If I were to make pierogi again, though, I would probably add one more because they tend to dissolve in the mashed potatoes.
If you can still see through your tears, you’d want to cut the potatoes into cubes, too. Ideally, if I wasn’t so damn lazy, I would have peeled the potatoes to speed up the cooking time. But not having a potato peeler in Winnipeg, and being overly cheap to buy one at this point, I threw caution to the wind and figured that I wouldn’t even see the potato skins inside the pierogi, let alone taste them.
Dump the cubed potatoes into your boiling water and let it boil away for like 10-15 minutes. I’m guessing that’s how long it would take for them to cook, but to be sure just peak at them occasionally and see if they’re starting to fall apart or not.
At this point you’ll also want to add your diced onions into the pan in which you preheated some oil.
Oh my god bacon – guess who just changed their wallpaper to the picture below. The bacon for this recipe serves two purposes: on the one hand I will be adding the sliced bacon into the mashed potatoes, and on the other hand we will be frying the pierogi in the bacon oil later on. With that in mind, don’t fudge up the bacon oil!
When the onions are slowly softening up and becoming translucent, it’s time to throw the cut-up bacon into the other preheated pan so it slowly cooks and gives off as much of its oil as possible.
Once you’re at this stage, you can move on to making the dough. If getting here was hard – just stick to making mashed potatoes and call it a day. Be sure to stir all three pots and pans occasionally to avoid anything burning or sticking to the bottom of the pans.
You know you’re almost ready to mix the ingredient together when your onions, bacon, and potatoes look something like this:
Now, simply drain the potatoes, add 2 tablespoons of butter along with a cup of milk and start mashing away at your potatoes. You know what else I don’t have in Winnipeg? A gosh-darn masher, that’s what.
When the potatoes are looking nice and mashed potato-y, drain your onions and bacon and just add them to the mix. At this point you can even add your cheese!
With the mixture ready, put your pot in the fridge to cool down and get working on your dough. If you’ve already started on your dough, just get back to it.
Pierogi dough is very similar to pasta dough, except here it needs to be a little thicker to avoid tearing while cooking. For this dough, and despite any of the pictures you may see below, it’s best to mix the dry ingredients separate from the wet ones, and slowly combine the flour mix into into the sour-cream mix. Doesn’t make sense? Watch the mess I made below and you might catch on:
Mistake number 1, don’t go buck-wild and start pouring flour everywhere. For a split second I thought we were making pizza, not pierogi. At this point we can stop counting mistakes and just admit that my approach to making this dough was wrong. Anyways, that’s the sour-cream, to be followed by eggs. Look how great all the ingredients are getting along – said none of the ingredients here ever. The picture doesn’t spell it out clearly enough, but I somehow forgot to add the baking powder until the very end, which means it definitely didn’t mix in property. Eating pierogi just turned into a dangerous game of Russian roulette, where the loser gets to spend the whole evening on the toilet!
If at the end of all this you end up with a smooth, gooey substance that you want to rub all over your body, then I commend you. It took me a lot of kneading, crying, weeping, and sticky hands to get the dough to my desired consistency. With the dough ready, it’s time to flour up a surface and get these pierogi cooking.
Not only do I not have a potato peeler, or a potato masher, I also still don’t have a dough roller. So watch me as I flatten out the stickiest dough known to man with my bare (clean) hands. “Look how big and round those are” is something nobody has ever said with reference to anything I’ve done. Things might change after this post…things might change.
Admittedly my pierogi were not intended to be giants, but one thing led to another and the only round “thing” I had to punch out dough circles was the lid of my tea container. Combine that with the fact that boiling these bad boys inflates them like balloons, and you’ll see why my pierogi look the way they do. If you’re looking for regular sized pierogi, just use a regular cup.
You’ll notice the more flour you use to keep the dough from sticking to the counter, the more flour your dough will absorb, becoming more and more pizza-dough-y. Some are thicker than others, which is fine, before filling them I just flattened them out by hand a little bit. I’m sure this will come instinctively to most people. When filling the pierogi, one tablespoon is too much – so I’d recommend using a teaspoon as measurement instead. This only took a cool and calm 15 minutes, no biggie.
When all that is done, it’s time to fold over the circles and seal the edges of the dough with a fork. This was by far my least favourite part, because on the one hand you want to do a good job, but on the other hand you know deep down you can just throw the dough in the garbage and just eat the filling, because you’re that hungry.
I wish you could see my frustrated face when having to fold these stupid pockets of joy, one by one, for a good 10 minutes. Guess who had to clean up the counter…..this guy! Fork you, pierogi, fork you and all your edges…
Once you’ve done that, and you have something resembling the picture below, then you’re ready to boil and fry these suckers. Bring another pot of lightly salted water to a boil and preheat your pan containing the bacon oil.
My setup was such that I would throw the pierogi into the water to boil for 2-3 minutes, then drain them and throw them into the hot oil to fry for another minute or so on each side. Once they were nice and golden, I’d transfer them onto a paper towel to get rid of some of the extra oil and voila! They’d be ready!
Step 1: This is where things got interesting: I optimistically threw in 4 pierogi, thinking there’d be room to spare. Little did I know that dough expands when exposed to water. Step 2: fry them for a minute on each side. Be careful of the heat, bacon oil burns pretty quickly – and you may just end up with a oil-smoke-filled house, like I did. Step 3: beauties. Let these rest for a couple of minutes and lightly dab them dry, and you’re ready to eat!Depending on how many pierogi you make, you may have to change the water once or twice. The flour does things to the water that make it foam up like you’d see when making pasta.
Apart from cutting my life short by a couple of years and working me to the bone, the result was very good. The pierogi smelled authentic, had just the right texture, and most important of all were super tasty.
The filling was spot on, too, and they were surprisingly fried to perfection, despite what the pictures may indicate.
The important question, as always, is whether or not I would make these again, knowing all the steps involved and things I would do differently. Honestly, I think I would. Granted, I figured a lot of the steps out on the fly, but even with getting the sizes wrong, not being able to knead the dough properly, forgetting to mix ingredients the right way, these pierogi turned out better than store-bought ones.
Some of you may see the picture above and wonder why it’s so dough heavy. Thing is, the more circles I punched out of the dough, the more I had to knead it back into a ball and add more flour to it to avoid it sticking to the counter – so the dough became thicker. I think the last 3 dough circles, of which the above was one, turned more or less into pizza dough. Surprisingly, the taste was unaffected.
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