Pierogi

I recently spent two weeks on a mission trip in Vienna, Austria working with students who are studying in a theologian degree program with TCMI International Institute. These students come from mostly Eastern European countries to spend some much needed rest time in the Vienna Woods while attending classes towards their degree. We, as short-term workers, are there to take care of their everyday needs such as meals, housekeeping and maintenance of the campus so they may concentrate on their studies.

This year we had 57 students from 11 different countries. One of my greatest joys is to meet these students and learn about their family and their ministries. They are always willing to share traditions and especially food dishes from their native homeland. As I sat at meals with the students, I made a point to ask them which of their country’s traditional dishes they would like me to spotlight on my food blog. It’s a blessing to see their faces light up when they talk about their favorite dish and reminisce about a family member who makes the best one.

So, for the next 11 days I will be spotlighting each of these countries and a traditional dish in honor of these students and their love for their homeland. I encourage you to try some of these dishes and if you like them, do further research on that particular country’s cuisine. You may find a new favorite recipe or two for your family!

Spotlight: Poland
Dish: Pierogi

Pierogi are filled dumplings of Central European origin. Made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking in boiling water. Pierogi which consist of noodle dough and have to be cooked in boiling water are associated with the Polish and Slovakian kitchen where they are considered national dishes.

Here is a recipe for the traditional version of pierogi with potato, cheese and onion as a filling.

Ingredients:

DOUGH

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, room temperature

FILLING

  • 1 cup warm mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

TO FINISH

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 large shallots, diced; OR one medium onion, thinly sliced

Preparation:

  1. To make the dough: Mix together the flour and salt. Add the egg to the flour and combine. The dough will be quite clumpy at this stage.
  2. Work in the sour cream and soft butter until the dough comes together in a slightly rough, slightly sticky ball.
  3. Using just your fingertips, knead and fold the dough without adding additional flour until the dough becomes less sticky but still quite moist.
  4. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes, or up to 48 hours.
  5. To make the filling: Combine the warm mashed potato and cheese. Stir and mash until the cheese is melted and the filling is cool to the touch. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  6. To fill the pierogi: Roll half the dough 1/8″ thick. Use a 2″ round cutter to cut circles of dough. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Save the scraps; these can be snipped into small pieces and added to simmering soups.
  7. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling on each round of dough. Gently fold the dough over, forming a pocket around the filling. Pinch the edges of the pierogi to seal, then seal again with the tines of a fork.
  8. At this point the pierogi can be frozen for up to 4 weeks, or refrigerated overnight, or cooked in a large stockpot of boiling salted water. Only cook about 10 pierogi at a time, so that they have room to float without sticking. When the pierogi float, they’re done. The time will vary depending of if they are fresh or frozen.
  9. Sauté the shallots or onion in the butter in a large skillet until the onion begins to brown. Add the drained pierogi and cook until browned and crisped. Serve hot with additional sour cream, applesauce, or other condiments.

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