Friday, January 18, 2013
You know those boxes in the freezer section that claim to contain perogies? Shh, don't say that word! Growing up, it was a curse word to refer to the frozen version as actual perogies. Not that there is anything wrong with them per say, but clearly you just need to know how to make an authentic, homemade version to know why the frozen version just won't cut it. When we would enjoy these as a family, if it wasn't my Mom making them, the only justifiable alternative was to buy them from the church ladies because at least those were homemade, too. Served coated with melted butter and onions that cooked down and caramelized, perogies are part side dish, part meal on their own and pure delicious. A perfect, tender pasta dough stuffed with potato and other goodies, it's hard to resist carbs filled with more carbs and smothered in butter. Delicious, comforting, and tastes like home.
It's been a year since I lost my Mom and the woman who taught me to cook. Much like the Polish Kolache I made for Christmas, perogies are one of those dishes that were a time-consuming labor of love Mom made only once or twice a year. While I grew up watching her make them nearly every Good Friday and sometimes around the winter holidays, it wasn't until about 5 years ago or so when she actually taught me. It's not that it's a complicated process, but it's about getting a specific feel to your dough. Too wet and the dough will never roll out properly. Too dry and you end up with a thick, chewy, unappealing lump. And getting the right consistency involves knowing when to add a bit more water before the dough gets the point that it won't absorb. So moral of the story is, these take practice and don't be discouraged if you don't get them perfect on your first attempt. It took me about 4 tries to get what I consider "Mom's" version, including just tossing a batch of dough straight in the trash before rolling because it was that tough. And that was a batch I made while Mom was at the table helping! I don't know if Mom got this recipe from Babushka Power or if she got it from her grandmother, but it's the only one she ever used. For our community cookbook, A Taste of Greater Hazelwood, in 2001, she included it with the caveat not to double this recipe. It just gets too cumbersome to work with the dough, so you're better off making two separate batches. Some other tips: Get your water boiling while you are rolling the dough and making each perogi so that you can boil them in batches while you go along. Similarly, have your onions chopped and cooking in a saucepan with the butter while the water boils. This way you can layer the cooked perogies in a casserole dish with the butter and onions so they don't stick together. The recipe below is for potato and cheese perogies--traditional and the common winner in my family growing up--but there are lots of alternatives, like potato and sauerkraut, potato and jalapeno, and more. We usually bake them up to enjoy on the first night, then extras are pan fried with butter and onions for an amazing leftover night. Practice making these, enjoy with your family and don't ever buy one of those frozen boxes again.
Ingredients (for potato filling)
3-4 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar (or more to taste)
1/4 cup milk, or more for consistency
salt and pepper, to taste
Peel, cube and boil potatoes until tender.
Drain and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand held mixer. Add butter and cheese and beat until creamy, adding milk until desired consistency is reached. Stir in salt and pepper and mix until incorporated throughout.
Set aside until dough is ready.
Ingredients (for dough)
4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, or more as needed
1 batch potato filling
1 1/2 cups butter
2 small onions
Place flour in a very large bowl and make a well in the center. Place eggs, 2 Tablespoons softened butter, salt and pepper in the well.
Using your hands, mix the wet ingredients into the flour, breaking up the butter as you go. Add water 2 Tablespoons at a time until the flour is incorporated, kneading gently, and a soft, supple dough emerges. (Note: You may end up using more than 1/2 cup water. That's ok, but add it gradually.) Dough should not be overly moist, but might have a slightly sticky consistency, like a yeasted bread dough before its first rise.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. In a medium saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups butter and chopped or sliced onions. Melt butter over medium low heat, stirring occasionally and sauteing the onions.
Divide dough into four parts. Begin with one part and cover the other three until ready to use. On a well-floured surface, begin rolling dough, adding flour as needed. The dough will be very elastic, but continue rolling until about 3/8 inch thick.
With a non-serrated knife, cut a strip about 4 inches wide. Place dollops of filling along strip at 3-4 inch intervals.
Cut dough between filling. Fold dough over filling and using your thumb and the knuckle of your forefinger, pinch closed, trimming off any excess dough.
In batches of about a dozen, add perogies to boiling water and cook until them begin to float. Remove to a strainer to drain off excess water.
Add a thin layer of melted butter to the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange cooked and drained perogies in the dish, adding butter and onions to each layer so the next layer doesn't stick. (Note: I fit about 3 dozen perogies in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish).
Perogies can be served at this point or cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to a day. To heat, bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes to warm and crisp.
To fry, heat a skillet over medium heat and melt 1-2 Tablespoons of butter. Add perogies and pan fry to desired crispness, turning occasionally.
Alternatively, rather than arranging in a casserole dish with butter and onions, drain perogies completely and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze, then transfer to an airtight container, separating layers with waxed paper. To cook, thaw and bake or pan fry with butter and onions.
Makes about 6 dozen perogies.
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