Where I live, people seem to have a tendency to talk about the weather. It’s not something we dwell on, however, since natives to this city have come to expect a lengthy rainy season that merges fall and winter. But it’s something that rears its head in almost every casual conversation. But as spring emerges, the cherry blossoms come out during the last heavy continuous rainfall, and then the beauty of our city is truly revealed, and it is just simply captivating.
This changing season always reminds me of why I love to live here on the West Coast. I’ve gone away and lived elsewhere in the past, but I’ve always been drawn back and re-captivated by its beauty and abundance. While I am easily enveloped into the busyness of my hospital schedule, I always try to look for ways to celebrate the arrival of spring. You know, to stop and smell the roses, as they say.
The best idea and opportunity fell on my lap when my sister told me she wanted to make pierogies with me in my kitchen. Michelle has always been an inspiration to me, with her contagious laugh, her light-hearted outlook, and empathetic nature. She fondly reminisces the part of her childhood spent in a predominantly Ukrainian community where she enjoyed fresh pierogies made to order. We have many interests in common, including cooking and a sweet tooth. Although we have spent most of our childhoods separate from one another due to unfavorable circumstances, we are still as close as sisters can be, and I treasure the time we spend together.
If you could meet Michelle, perhaps the first thing you would notice about her is her sociable nature and her ability to gather a group of friends together at a moment’s notice. She brought a friend along with her, and the three of us worked together to make my pierogy recipe. The photos from this blog post illustrate the dedication of Michelle and Julie, who have rediscovered their amazing talents in the kitchen. We sat down to enjoy our meal together, appreciating others who hand-make pierogies on a daily basis. And I must say, the pierogies turned out absolutely amazing, and our significant others were glowing with pride for us as they enjoyed what we served. We were very generous on our pierogy stuffing portions!
For the filling
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp butter
3 onions, finely diced
8 oz cottage cheese, drained overnight and crumbled
2 oz cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
For the dough
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
Kielbasa sausage, sliced at an angle, to serve with pierogies (optional)
Make the filling. Put the potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan with enough cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes).
Drain, return the potatoes to the pan over medium heat, stirring, until they look floury and leave a light film on the bottom of the pan (about 3 minutes). Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the two cheeses and process until blended well. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden-brown and soft (about 15 minutes). Reserve half of the onions for garnish and add the other half to the potatoes. Add the cheese, 1 tbsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and mix until well combined. Let cool to room temperature before using.
Make ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the filling and continue the next day.
Make the dough. Put flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers to 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 water, 1 tbsp at a time, until it forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently knead it just until soft and elastic. The dough will not be completely smooth, but it should be easy to shape, with a Play–Doh like consistency. Avoid over-kneading or the dough will be too tough.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Divide the dough into 6 orange-sized balls (about 8 oz each). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time on a floured work surface, and keeping the other covered so they don’t dry out, roll the dough into a 1/8-inch thick, 10-inch wide circle.
Using a floured 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough. Transfer the circles to the baking sheet, dust with a little flour, and top with a sheet of parchment paper so they don’t dry out.
Repeat with the remaining dough, stacking the circles between sheets of floured parchment and re-rolling the scraps until all of the dough is used.
Fill the dough. Working with 1 dough circle at a time, brush off any excess flour and hold the circle in your palm. Spoon a scant 1 tbsp of the filling into the center of the circle and fold it in half. Using your fingers, tightly pinch the edges together to seal and create a ½-inch border. Arrange the filled pierogi on a lightly floured baking sheet and dust very lightly with flour. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel. Repeat with the remaining dough circles and filling.
Make ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking, or freeze for up to 5 months. Freeze in a single layer on parchment-lined sheets, then transfer to freezer bags.
Cook the pierogi. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 175oF. Bring a 6-quart pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches of 10, drop the pierogi into the boiling water and give them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together or to the sides of the pot. When they float to the surface, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a platter and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining batches.
Serve the pierogi. You can serve them boiled or fried.
For boiled pierogi, melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Sprinkle the pierogi with the reserved onion and drizzle with melted butter. Serve hot with sour cream on the side.
For fried pierogi, melt 4 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches of 10, cook the boiled pierogi, flipping once, until golden brown and crispy on both sides (about 4minutes per batch). Transfer to a platter and keep warm in the oven. Repeat, adding more butter to the skillet as needed.
Cook the kielbasa sausage in a skillet over medium heat until edges are browned.
Add the reserved onion and cook until warmed through. Sprinkle the fried pierogi with the sausage onion mixture, and serve with sour cream on the side.