Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vereniki (Non-Meat Pierogies)

My stepfather grew up with two nationalities -- German and Polish. His grandfather on the German side was a baker, but every time he mentions a dish he wants my mother and I to attempt it's something from his Polish grandmother's repertoire. The famed cheesecake recipe is coming soon!

Anywho, his birthday runs dangerously close to Christmas day, so my mother and I typically plan a larger celebration on the birthday than on Christmas. This year we went totally Polish and because we made several things, I'm adding that as a tag on my recipe collection. My stepfather's primary request was pierogies -- or vereniki in Russian -- which are essentially wheat pasta pockets filled with some variation of mushrooms, mashed potato, onions and cheese. The following recipe includes the ingredients for all of the aforementioned fillings.

These can be prepared several ways. A lot of people boil their pierogies, but this detracts from the flavor in my experience, as well as causing the homemade variety to fray apart and become pierogie soup. Therefore I recommend a method quite similar to cooking potstickers, which begins with steaming and ends with a short pan fry.

Ingredients for dough:

2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp full fat sour cream
1 egg
1/3 c warm water

This is easy -- knead the dough together until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed. Roll into a ball and place under an upside down bowl for an hour.


2/3 c mushrooms, chopped finely (you may want to use a food processor for this)
4 tbsp chopped leeks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boiled potatoes
3-4 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups finely cubed cheese of choice (fontina works well)
2 containers, 1/2 cup water in each
4 tbsp butter
large skillet with cover

Boil the potatoes until tender. Mash with the salt and cream until all but the smallest lumps are gone. Heat the oil, mushrooms and leeks over medium heat with a dash of salt and continue to cook until well browned, then set aside. Roll the dough out in small handfuls to about "1/8 and using a "3 cookie cutter, cut pieces of dough and set them aside. Heat the skillet over medium high.

Set to work on filling the pierogies -- we found it easiest and the most fun to mix and match fillings, since all the flavors were compatible. To do this takes practice with the dough but I will attempt to describe how I did it: taking the round of dough in my hand, I smooshed it down one last time to eliminate any large lumps and held it flat in my left hand. Using the right, I put fillings off center and rolled the unfilled end over. I pinched the sides together to get a small half moon. Repeat, setting the raw pierogies on an oiled cookie sheet once completed.

When you've assembled all the pierogies, it's time to cook them. Put 2 tbsp of butter in the pan and once melted, assemble approximately half the pierogies in the pan. Put in half a cup of water along with a dash of salt and cover for three minutes. After this, take off the cover and allow to cook until the water has evaporated. At this point, the side on the pan should be barely browning. Flip the pierogies and allow them to brown more completely on the other side, anywhere from three to seven minutes depending on your stove, so keep checking them.

Chances are with this recipe you'll wind up doing two batches in the pan. If you don't have a large party to serve or want to save some for later, they can be frozen before being fried for at least a month.

Once cooked, serve hot with sour cream on the side. Za zdarovy!

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