One of my favorite foods growing up is a Ukrainian dish called Varenyky – you may know them as Pierogies. I am sure you have seen these doughy wonders sold in the frozen food section of your grocery store, but like anything else homemade is always better.
I remember as a little girl watching my mother make this traditional food. My mouth would water from the aromas in the house as I watched her stuff the varenyky with either a mixture of potatoes, mushrooms, sauerkraut or pitted cherries. Her fingers were nibble and worked quickly as she cut, rolled and pinched each varenyk. It took hours, but oh so worth it in the end.
I will never forget when Mike came over to the house for the very first time. My mother was in the kitchen making varenyky. We sat in the kitchen watching her and just talked. Of course, Mike stayed for dinner and I guess I could say this sealed the deal, he was hooked… hopefully on me! It is important to me to pass on my heritage and keep the tradition alive so I watched intensely and learned how to make them.
I always make the potato mixture first so that it can come to room temperature while I make the dough. Once that is prepared, I start the process of making each pierogi. After cooking (boiling) them, I toss them with melted butter or olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and then serve them with sour cream.
This is what you will need:
½ stick of unsalted butter
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions (2 cups), diced
7 medium-sized yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered (2 ½ pounds)
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ – 1 cup water
In a large skillet on medium heat sauté diced onions in butter and olive oil until onions become a rich golden brown. You will need to stir frequently. Peel and quarter potatoes evenly, and cook in lightly salted water until done, this should take about 15 minutes. Do not overcook the potatoes. Drain and mash the potatoes, add onions and cubed cream cheese along with remaining salt and pepper. Stir until mixed, and let sit for a few minutes (covered) to allow the cream cheese to melt. Stir again, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed and set aside.
To prepare the dough, pour two cups of flour into a large bowl, add salt and stir. Create a well in the flour and add the egg. Using a fork, mix the flour with the egg and slowly add in lukewarm water. Now use your hands to continue mixing the dough. If the dough is too sticky, add in more flour, a tablespoon at a time. You want your dough smooth and pliable without being sticky. Form the dough into a ball; put it into a dish, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Now comes the fun part… putting the pierogies together. I use a large silicone roll mat for my workspace, which I have coated with flour. I take the dough out of the bowl, cut a section off and roll that section out to approximately 1/16 inch thick. Using a glass or a cookie cutter that is 2 3/4 inches in diameter, I cut out circles of dough. I then take a heaping teaspoon of the potato mixture and place in the center of the dough. I fold the dough in half and pinch the dough together. I use flour while pinching to be sure that my pierogi is sealed completely. I then place each completed pierogi on a well-floured cutting board until I have used all the dough. I cover the prepared pierogies with a clean dishcloth so they do not dry out. I can usually make anywhere from 25 – 35 pierogies from the dough. Many times I will have potato mixture left over, but no worries it tastes great sautéed on the stove.
I then bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a full boil. Using a slotted spoon, gently place the pierogies into the water. You will be able to cook anywhere from 10 – 12 pierogies at one time. Once the pot of water has returned to a full boil, cook for about 4 – 5 minutes. You will know the Pierogies are done when they come to the top of the pot. I then take a cup of cold water, pour it into the pot to stop the boiling and remove the pierogies using a slotted spoon. Repeat the process for the remaining pierogies.
Place the pierogies into a serving platter; add a sprinkle of salt and then lightly coat with melted butter or olive oil. Toss them gently and enjoy with sour cream. With these pierogies, I served Venison that was thinly sliced and sautéed on the stove with onions. The combo was most delicious!
Our wine of choice for this meal was a Roustabout Paso Robles Meritage 2012 which we picked up at Trader Joe’s. It was an excellent bottle that both Mike and I highly recommend.
If perchance there are any left over, you can serve them the next day by sautéing in butter or olive oil until the dough is a crispy brown.