PEROGIES

As the new year begins and things get underway again, I wanted to start with something that cuts the sweetness from the holiday season: perogies!  For me, perogies are more than just the potato-cheesy goodness that is enfolded in dough and then fried in butter till golden-y brown.  As a Mennonite, perogies are one of those foods that are part of our cuisine and tradition.  They are a necessity at weddings and socials and they can often spark a serious discussion about many things: the best way to prepare them (fried vs boiled), the best filling (potato-cheese vs cottage cheese vs fruit) and the best accoutrements (sour cream vs fried onions).

I have been aching to make my own perogies for a while and the time off at Christmas gave me the best opportunity.  My aunt lives north of the city in an old converted church and for me, it offers an escape for a few days when I have time for a break.  After Christmas celebrations were over this year, I spent 4 days there pretty much doing nothing, with some wine, baking, and cooking thrown in.  My aunt has an appreciation for food much like I do and she’s game pretty much to try anything, so for this particular project, I enlisted her help.

Before I get into the recipe etc, I would like to mention that it takes a looooong time.  Start with plenty of time before you actually plan to eat them, or make the filling the day before to save you some time.  There are also quite a few steps required, so enlisting help from a pal is always a good idea and makes it more fun!

Here goes, then!  With compliments to Fine Cooking magazine, the recipe for Potato-Cheese Perogies:

FILLING:

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp butter or olive oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
10 oz. dry curd cottage cheese
freshly ground black pepper – be generous!

Start with the filling: Place potatoes in pot with enough cold water to be covered and boil.  Reduce heat once the water has reached a boil so they can simmer.  Cook potatoes until tender – about 15 minutes.  They should be able to be poked with a fork.  Drain potatoes and leave in pot until the rest of the filling is complete.

Heat butter/oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add onions.  Cook until they turn a deep golden brown – about 20 minutes.  Keep about half the onions for serving purposes and place the rest in a bowl.

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Add the cheese, 1 tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Mash the potatoes that you left in the pot and add to the cheese-onion mixture.  Give the mixture a really good stir and let sit until cool.

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DOUGH:

2 pounds flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups warm water

Measure flour into a large bowl.  Add butter to the flour and press it into the flour with your fingers.  When you’re done, it should resemble coarse meal.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of water – use your hands to bring the dough together.  Continue to add the water until the flour is completely incorporated.  At this point, turn it out onto a well- floured surface and knead until soft and easy to shape – it should feel somewhat like play-doh.

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At this point it is VERY handy to have a helper friend.  Divide the dough into 6 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness.  It is important that you cover the dough that you aren’t working with a towel.  The dough does dry out rather quickly!  Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and, if you are doing it with someone, hand the pieces to them to fill with filling.  Repeat with remaining dough, until all dough is used up.  If you are doing it alone, flour a baking sheet and place the circles on the sheet.  Stack the circles of dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper until you’re ready to fill.

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When filling, hold the circle in your hand and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre.  Fold in half and pinch the edges together firmly.  I pinched them and then used a fork to sort of seal them up.  The fork also gives a nice pattern on the edges.  Cover the finished perogies with a clean towel so they don’t dry up.  Repeat until the filling is all used up.

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When you are ready to cook them, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Parboil the perogies in batches of about 12.  Place in boiling water until they float to the top (1-2 minutes for fresh perogies, 7-10 minutes if working from frozen).  Stir so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  I find it useful to parboil only the perogies I plan on eating.  However, if you have more time, parboil them all.  This reduces the work needed on the day you actually plan to eat them.

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When you are ready to eat them, you can boil them or fry them.  If you prefer them boiled, simply leave them 1-2 minutes longer in the salted water (see above step) and melt some butter in a small sauce pan.  Sprinkle with reserved onions and drizzle with melted butter.  If you prefer fried, melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in 12-inch skillet.  Transfer parboiled perogies to pan and give the pan a good swirl. Flip the perogies once when the sides are lovely golden brown and crisp – this should take about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with reserved onion and serve while hot and fresh – that is when they are the best!  Serve with sour cream, if desired.  Personally, I like my perogies in butter with a ton of onion…sometimes bacon as well, but that happens only on very rare occasions ;) I also like to serve with a salad because it gives the whole meal a fresher feeling.

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According to the recipe that this is based on, the yield is 50-60 perogies.  When I made them, my aunt and I got over 100, but I believe our cutter was smaller than 3 inches.  You can store these babies in the freezer because clearly you won’t eat them all at the same time.  Unless you are planning a perogie party, and if that’s the case then I want an invite!  This is also another reason to do it with someone – you can split the goods when they’re done.  That way you don’t have quite so many to deal with, if you don’t have the storage space.  After having made this recipe once, I would consider not cutting the dough into circles again, because of how much time it takes.

While making them, my aunt and I took the opportunity to chat about various things.  She told me how her mother (my Oma) made them and instead of making circles, she would roll the dough and cut squares instead.  A neat time saver and also, no dough that needs to be re-rolled and no waste in the end.  I found especially when re-rolling, that the dough got a little tough.  Something to keep in mind, perhaps?

I hope you enjoy!

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Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
~e.

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