Potato & Cheese Pierogi

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My earliestmemories include watching my Polish nana pinching pierogi in the kitchen. Standing there in one of her apron covered housecoats, her fingers would fly as she grasped the palm sized bits of dough pockets and swiftly secured their fillings inside.  As kids we would eat meat filled ones boiled with ketchup.  The holidays called for fancier versions, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes took the place of ground meat and these special pierogi would be fried in butter and served with sautéed onions. Nana never shared her recipe and as far as I know she took it too her grave.  In college I dated a Polish man.  His babci wore the same housecoats and had the same pierogi pinching technique as my nana.  Like my nana, she never shared her recipe but she did introduce me to the sweet version of this Polish treat.  Plums, blueberries or even apples were staples in her household.  My relationship with this boyfriend probably lasted as long as it did because of her pierogi.
This version from Fine Cooking Magazine is close to the pierogi of my childhood. I was pleasantly surprised at my results.  I couldn’t find the farmer cheese called for in the recipe but I made the best Albanian substitution I could find; half ricotta and half Albanian white cheese (akin to feta) seemed to do the trick.  I need to practice my pierogi pinching technique but I think even my nana would approve of the results.
POTATO AND CHEESE PIEROGI
 FILLING
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil (I used olive oil)
3 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped
10 ounces farmer cheese (I used one cup ricotta cheese and one cup of Albanian white cheese)
DOUGH
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups warm water
FOR COOKING AND SERVING
1-1/2 Tbs. butter or 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, for sautéing (optional)
melted butter or sour cream and snipped chives for serving (optional)

Make the filling

  • Put the potatoes in a pot with just enough cold salted water to cover them and boil until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.  Lower the heat and continue cooking until the onion is nicely browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. You may need to add 1 tablespoon or more of additional butter, as the mixture will absorb quite a bit of fat. Set aside to cool.  
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and press lightly with a dry kitchen towel to dry them thoroughly. Return the potatoes to their hot pot and shake them dry.
  • Remove the pot from the heat; add the cooled onion mixture and the cheese. Mash the ingredients until they’re well blended and there are no more potato lumps; you may want to use a stiff whisk. Season  with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool while you roll out the pierogi dough.
Make the pierogi dough
  • Put the flour in a large bowl.  Add the butter and using your fingers, work it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  Add 1 3/4 cups of the warm water and stir with your fingers until the mixture begins to come together.  If the mixture is dry, you can add up to 1/4 cup more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently knead it until just soft and elastic; the dough will not be completely smooth, but it should be easy to shape, with a Play-Doh-like consistency.
Shape and fill the pierogi

  • Fill a large pot with 5 qt. water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, using lightly floured hands, pinch of one tablespoon portions of the dough and roll them into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should end up with 36 to 40 balls. With a small rolling pin or dowel, gently roll out each ball into a 3 to 3-1/2-inch round about 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface. Keep the dough balls and disks covered as you work so they won’t dry out.
  • Hold a round of dough flat in your palm, dust off the excess flour, and spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the round in half to enclose the filling. Seal the pierogi by pulling the edges away from the filling and pinching them together. To ensure a proper seal, pinch the edge shut once more, working from one end to the other. Set the filled pierogi on a floured work surface or baking sheet and cover with a dry towel or plastic wrap until all are filled. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cook the pierogi

  • When the pot of water is boiling, drop the pierogi in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another 2 to 4 minutes; bite into one to check that there’s no chalky line. Remove cooked pierogi from the water with a spider or slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. If you like, serve them immediately with melted butter.
  • To sauté the pierogi, heat the butter or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Without crowding the pan, add the boiled, drained pierogi and cook until golden brown and puffy on both sides. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream and chives, if desired.
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3 thoughts on “Potato & Cheese Pierogi

  1. Sarah February 3, 2013 at 14:09 Reply

    Hey Zosia, she had stopped cooking by the time I was interested in learning how to make them, but I inherited her old Polish cookbooks. There are a couple recipes in there that I will copy and mail to you. I remember my mom and I making the mushroom and cabbage ones, and the potato and cheese ones, and them bringing tears to Nana’s eyes, so they must have been fairly close. A friend and I several years back made them together and stocked both our freezers, but I haven’t made them since. You might have inspired me.

  2. Braised Red Cabbage | Zosia Cooks February 21, 2013 at 22:10 Reply

    […] Albanian-style kielbasa (which was surprisingly authentic in both taste and texture) and some potato and cheese pierogi.  My Polish ancestors would be so […]

  3. […] you have homemade pierogi in your freezer, this dish can come together in minutes. My Polish grandmother would have […]

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