Fall is all about Eastern European food in our house. It starts when we pack the crock with cabbage to make ready our holiday sauerkraut. It is warming comfort food that just screams cold weather. It goes on right up until Christmas when we make the traditional Slovakian feast of Vianoce.
You just cant celebrate Eastern European fare without delving into the perogi. They are delicious pockets of dough stuffed with all sorts of tasty fillings. Most common is the potato perogi. One might think that the combination of dough and potatoes is too much but it just works so well in this magical dumpling. They are hearty and filling harkening a simpler time and place. No doubt like many hearty peasant foods they were devised when there was very little to eat. Winter was setting in and food had to be rationed. Potatoes, cabbage and flour., if you were lucky there may be some eggs in the barn and some smoked meat in the attic. To avoid eating the same thing over and over the same way, it was during these times that the best dishes in the world were invented. When we have very little we get creative, when we have too much we get lazy and boring. It was here that the perogi was born.
When making homemade perogi it is fun to get the whole family involved, though it is not terribly difficult to make them on your own. Start out by making the dough. It is an unleavened pasta dough. Though thicker and lighter in body then the pasta dough used in Italian cooking.
Before we start lets talk about mixing dough. Mixing dough by hand takes a little time but it is in my opinion fun. I find it meditative and it is relaxing to me. However time does not always allow for it. I still mix dough by hand but it is for Indian breads like chappity, paranthas and what not. Those doughs mix easily by hand.. Peogi dough; as with many bread doughs can be strenuous to mix by hand. That is why I bought a Kitchen Aid mixer. I love it and use it a lot, If you are serious about cooking and you want to take it to the next level get a Kitchen Aid, it is the best mixer for the money.
Most people make a LOT of perogi at a time. Then they freeze them or give them away. I guess this is because they presumably take a long time to make. Me and my mixer can bust them out pretty quick. Following are the ingredients for a batch of about twelve medium sized perogi or about twenty small ones etc. Large perogi are good too.
For the dough
For the filling
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 2 eggs beaten (room temperature)
- 3 tablespoons of sour cream (room temperature)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup hot water from boiled potatoes. (This is one of those "little tricks" and it makes for nice tender dough)
- 6-8 large potatoes. (Dont choose baking potatoes, any boiling potato will work, red, yellow, etc)
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (Optional)
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds (Optional)
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- salt and pepper
GETTING STARTED: Start peeling the potatoes, cut them in smaller cubes and set them aside. Start a pot of water boiling over high heat. Then get a saute pan hot over med high heat. Put the butter into the pan and then throw in about a cup of the diced onions and the chopped garlic. Then throw in the herbs and spices, brown these a little and then set the pan aside to cool. By this time the water should be ready for the potatoes. Drop them in and cook them as you would for mashed potatoes. When the potatoes are done strain them but retain a cup full of the hot starchy water.
MAKING THE DOUGH: Put all of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and turn it on low, add the beaten eggs and the sour cream. At this point a dry dough should be clumping up. Now gradually add a little of the hot starchy potato water at a time. (If it so happens that it cooled down get it hot in the microwave or something.) Keep adding the water till the dough forms nicely. It should be on the wetter side but it should not be sticky to your fingers. Form a ball with the dough and cover it with a damp cloth for a 20 min rest.
MAKING THE FILLING: Take the pot of strained potatoes and make sure they are cool enough to add egg without it cooking, dump in the sauteed onion mixture add an egg and then mash everything together until mixed.
STUFFING THE PEROGI: Get a good size space laid out on a cleaned table or counter. Set out your bowl of filling, the dough ball, a rolling pin and a small bowl of water for your fingers. Start a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat for cooking them as they are assembled. Have a cullender in a pot for straining the cooked perogi .
Flour the rolling area and the pin. Form the dough into balls about one and one half the size of a golf ball for medium sized perogi. Roll them out to about 3 or 4 inches in diameter then put a dollop of filling on the center. Dip your finger into water and rub it gently around the outer circumference of the dough pocket.
Fold the dough over the top. Its OK if you have to stretch out the dough to make it fit over the filling but be careful not to get the filling on the area where it will close the seam. If it does the perogi will open when it is cooked. Now give it a good pinch around the joint until it is all sealed up. You can go over the top of the joint with a fork to add a decorative edge and ensure the sealing or do like I do and twist and pinch along the joint.
COOKING THE PEROGI: As the perogi are assembled start putting them in the boiling water three or four at a time. Do this by first putting them onto a spoon and lowering them into the water. Hold them for several seconds and then release. Do this with every perogi, the reason for this is that if you just drop them in they will sink fast and then stick on the bottom. When they float then they are ready to move to the strainer. Each time you put them in the strainer sprinkle them with a little veg oil. This will keep them from sticking together. When they are all cooked set the cullender aside.
SERVING THE PEROGI: Over med high heat melt a few pats of butter, pork lard or veg oil in a saute pan big enough to fit the perogi. When the onions begin to turn light translucent add the perogi and brown them a little with the onions. Turn them over gently making sure not to brake them open . Add more oil or butter if need be.
After the onions are browned a little turn them out onto the plate and top them with a dollop of sour cream.
Perogi are one of my favorites, There are all different kinds, filled with meat, mushrooms, sauerkraut to list a few.
DON'T FEAR THE PEROGI!