Polish Christmas Recipes: Pierogi

making-pierogiThis pierogi recipe is the second part of our traditional Polish Christmas feast. Think of them as large Ravioli, which you put in the Barszcz.

Pierogi can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge, covered.

Pierogi are quite labor-intensive to make – but the idea is, the whole family pitches in and helps, and it’s a great bonding time. (Here, you can see 2 1/2 year old Emily happily joining in.)

Meat or cabbage pierogi are traditionally made for Christmas Eve, but I’ve included the “main course” basic cheese-and-potato recipe, as well.

Pastry:

  • 3-4 cups flour
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • 4-6 eggs
  • Drop or two of cold water

Mix flour and salt.  Heap onto the center of a large pastry mat or clean counter.  Make a “well” (a deep indentation) in the flour.  Break the eggs into the “well”.  Beat eggs, then gradually start folding flour in.  Keep stirring.  Consistency should be stiff, not sloppy or soggy—but soft!  Add a drop or two of water if too stiff; add more flour if too sloppy.

Knead for a few minutes, adding a little flour as needed, to stop dough sticking to your fingers.

Rolling out:

There are two methods. Choose whichever one works better for you.

(A)    Separate dough into small balls, roll with hands into a long cylinder, chop tiny bits off, and flatten each into a rough circle.

(B)    Cut with cookie cutter into rounds.

After you’ve got your “rounds”, roll each one wafer-thin with a rolling pin. (You can roll the dough a little thicker for the cheese-and-potato pierogi). Sprinkle lightly with flour, roll again to get to the right degree of thin-ness. Turn them with a spatula as you work, to further help avoid sticking and to keep your rounds even.

TIP:   Sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour. When you stack the completed pierogi rounds, put a tiny bit of pre-torn or cut WAX PAPER in between each one, to stop them from sticking to each other. Cover the pile with a damp linen tea towel, or damp piece of paper towel.

FILL with cabbage mixture, meat, or cheese-and-potato filling as follows:

Fillings:

christmas-pierogiMeat—Mix lean ground round, 1 egg, minced onion, bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes, salt and pepper till moist and well-mixed.  Drop by tiny teaspoons onto pierogy pastry rounds.  Fold pastry over the meat, making sure none spills out of the edges (they will not stick if meat gets onto the edges).  Pinch the edges shut, dipping your fingers into flour to help them seal.   Pull corners back and join to make rounded ravioli shapes.

Cabbage—Remove outer leaves, finely chop cabbage and a small onion.

(HANDY TIP:  you can use packet of raw coleslaw or two, instead of chopping cabbage from scratch!).

Put 1 tablespoon good oil or butter in saucepan, sautée cabbage or Coleslaw and onion until tender.  Add salt, pepper if desired.  Add brown sugar (1-2 tbsp.s).  Add 1 tbsp. Vinegar.  When soft, remove from heat, fill your pierogi.  Do not join ends into a Ravioli shape: Leave them as half-moon or “ear” shaped. ( This is so you can tell the difference between the meat and the cabbage pierogi.)

(You can also saute chopped mushroom along with the cabbage and onion, if you like mushrooms.)

Potato and Cheese—Cook a batch of potatoes, drain, mash with potato masher, stir in tub of fine cottage cheese, salt and pepper.  Fill pierogi.  Boil till they rise to the surface, strain with a spoon of butter to prevent sticking.

The cheese-and-potato ones do not go into soup. Serve them as a main course, with sour cream and sautéed onions-and-bacon, if desired.  (You can also use grated cheddar instead of cottage cheese – but it’s not traditional.)

When all the pierogi are made, DROP into large pot full of rapidly-boiling water.  Cook just until they rise to the surface and float.  (Cook meat ones SEPARATELY – and cook them a couple of minutes longer).

DRAIN into a colander, then toss lightly with a spoonful of butter (so they don’t stick together).  The butter step can be omitted if you are serving them IMMEDIATELY in barszcz.

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