I'm Polish and Lebanese-Armenian. I could also include Irish and Scottish, but I've never felt particularly influenced by either of those ethnicities, in part (I think) because the food of that region never made it into my home growing up. I ate a lot of tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, monte, kielbasas, pierogies.... no haggis.
I still love pierogies. But as good as potato and cheese wrapped in dough is, pierogies were always fairly unexciting. Naturally, once you smother them in sour cream and fried onions they're awesome, but let's be honest... at its core, the pierogie is a bland food item.
The recipe below is basically four things: a good dough from epicurious, mashed potatoes, a sharp and flavorful cheese and a strong vegetable component. While I used cheddar and onions, I think swiss cheese and sauteed minced mushrooms could be another good combination. Maybe sharp provolone and a garlicky spinach or broccoli rabe? Does anyone have any other suggestions?
Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Pierogies
1 onion, sliced into thin half-moons
A lot of butter
Some heavy (or light) cream
As much sour cream as you like
A lot of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 oz.)
Salt and pepper
1) Make dough according to the recipe (link above). The final consistency is supposed to be elastic, but I found it too stretchy to work with the first day. So I chilled it over night and that made a big difference.
1) Start making the caramelized onions first. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add onions and about 2 tbls. sugar. I cooked mine on low heat for about an hour till they were golden yellow and very pliable, stirring occassionally and keeping the lid on.
2) Make mashed potatoes however you like them. I peeled and diced my potatoes before boiling to expedite things. I added about 4 tbls. butter, 3 tbls. sour cream and as much cream as produced my desired consistency. I kept them on the less creamy side to produce a make pierogie assembly easier.
3) Grate the cheese directly into the mashed potatoes. I used about a full block of cheese.
4) Add caramelized onions. Mix well.
I made the filling on the same day as the dough and also let it chill over night.
1) Invite over at least one friend to help you. I chose Sarah!
2) Bring dough and filling to room temperature (if previously chilled). Have a glass of water handy.
3) Roll out dough on a well-floured surface. The dough is still sticky enough that re-flouring throughout the process is super helpful.
4) Cut out rounds in the dough. I used the rim of a drinking glass with a diameter of 2 1/2 inches.
5) With a round of dough in the palm of your hand, put 1 tsp. or so of filling the middle.
6) Using your finger, wet the perimeter of the dough with water. Don't use too much water or it will make the dough soggy and hard to work with. Seriously, one finger is all you need. ONE.
7) Start closing the pierogie by gently folding the dough in half and pinching the dough together, starting on one side and working your way to the other. Stretch out the dough gently to make the sides meet.
8) Pinch across the rim to make sure its shut.
Ok, so after about my fifth pierogie, three of which had little holes in them or some such nonsense, I said something like, "This is bullshit. I'm never making pierogies again. I can just buy them"
But then, Sarah and I started to get the hang of it. These little potato cheese pouches actually started to look like real pierogies.
When I would reroll the dough scraps, the dough got really dense and lost some of its elasticity. I tried re-chilling it, but there wasn't enough time to chill it properly. So I just started cutting out larger rounds which would need less elasticity to close and that helped.
By the time Sarah and I blanched and pan-fried the pierogies till they were crispy and brown, I was completely on board with this whole "making your own pierogies" thing*. The filling was definitely more tasty than the everyday pierogie and once we got the hang of it, actually making them wasn't that hard or time consuming. Maybe I would invite over two people next time? Just to make things move along...
Sarah brought over salad fixings- greens, dried cranberries, blue cheese, candied pecans and cilantro. While a bit of sour cream was a welcome garnish to the pierogies, I actually found the simple red wine vinegar dressing an even better compliment to the rich pierogies.
* Remember to strain the pierogies before putting them in the hot oil for pan frying.