Love is a bowl of pierogi on a cold night. Or any night, really. But especially on a cold night. Anyone who has any ties to any number of Eastern European communities has probably run up against these delightful clouds of yum.
Pierogi were, once upon a time, considered peasant food (which a lot of the most delicious stick to your ribs and make you happy foods had peasant food origins), because of their simple ingredients and low price point per unit. And ugh, sorry to let historical economics leak into this post – but sometimes history is gonna economic. We’re all going to pretend I didn’t say that.
Moving on. Pierogi Ruskie does not translate into Russian Pierogi. I know, you probably feel like it should given that in almost any other context it does (and how’s about we stop using that word, mmmkay?). Are your ready for some more history, campers? Good. Here it comes:
Ruskie referes to Ruthenia which was a loose federation of Slavic (and possibly Baltic) tribes from the late 9th to 13th centuries under the reign of the Rurik Dynasty, which encompasses modern day Belarus, Ukraine, and Russian (and possibly some of Poland … mehbeh?). Early Eastern European history is not my strong point.
Like I said: pierogi are Eastern European fare and trying to pinpoint and exact country isn’t going to happen (not to mention pierogi go by other names in Ukraine, Slovakia, Romania, and Germany).
Pierogi Ruskie are probably one of the more popular kinds of pierogi in North America (they are the creamy, dreamy potato and cheese filled dumplings of your dreams), but pierogi can be filled with almost anything both savory and sweet (meat, sauerkraut, mushrooms, sour cherries … I could go on). In this case after the pierogi are boiled they can be sautéed up in butter and served with browned onions. Or, if you come back in a few days I’ll show you another way to serve up a bowl of pierogi yum.
Note: if you, like me, live in the middle of a city you might be scratching you head about what “farmer cheese” is … because: what? It is a soft cheese, also sometimes referred to a “fresh curd” cheese. If all else fails and you can’t find farmer cheese at your grocer you can use ricotta, cottage cheese, or – if you’re feeling brave – you can make your own. Both Lifeway Kefir and Friendship Dairies produce and distribute farmer cheese on a wide scale. If you have a good European grocer wander the cheese isle and look for krajanka (it’s Polish farmers cheese).
For the dough:
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 TBSP sour cream
For the filling:
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, quartered and boiled without skins
1/2 onion minced and sautéed in butter (should be about 2 TBSP when fully cooked)
8 ounces farmer cheese
salt to taste
pepper to taste
To make the dough whisk the eggs, sour cream, and milk together until you get a nice smooth and even texture. Slowly add in flour and salt, mixing until fully combined. Set aside.
To make the filling take your potatoes and give them a rough mash with a fork. You want clumps of potatoes NOT a smooth mixture. Using your hands mash/fold/squish in 2 TBSP sautéed onion, farmer cheese, and salt/pepper to taste. Keep mashing until you have a well mixed filling (don’t be afraid to taste it to see if you like the level of seasonings).
Next roll out the dough – you will have to add some extra flour because pierogi dough is rather sticky by nature – to your desired thickness. Keep in mind to not make the dough to thin as it will break and not too think or it will not want to fold over itself well.
Using a glass (or a cookie / biscuit cutter) cut out circles and set aside (I worked in shifts making a dozen or so at at time) on a floured surface.
Fill the dough with filling (I used to scoops from a #70 cookie scoop … which equals an ounce of filling), turn the dough over itself and pinch together using your preferred method. #teamfork
Set completed pierogi aside on a floured cookie sheet. From here you can freeze the pierogi flat on the cookie sheet (later bagging in a Ziploc bag) or you can boil them up for dinner.
If cooking immediately: bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Add pierogi one by one and give the pot a good stir to keep the pierogi from sticking to the bottom or the sides of the pot. When the pierogi are done they will rise to the top and be delightfully puffed. Remove from water and store in a covered dish to keep them warm.
In another skillet sautée the other half of the onion (or some bacon, bacon would be good) in butter to toss with the pierogi when they are finished cooking.
Serve tossed with onion (bacon) and a dollop of sour cream if wanted.