Is there anyone who doesn’t love a dumpling? I defy you to find me that person.
Because it really makes no sense: “No, I don’t want this delicious thing stuffed inside something else so I can eat it with my fingers.” Do you know what that is? The ramblings of a madperson. There’s a reason every culture has dumplings, and it’s because they effing rule. Dumplings, gnocchi, dim sum, potstickers, pierogi – all dumplings, all delicious.
If we would all just realize that love of dumplings transcends boundaries of belief and nationality, the world might be a really different place. A happy place. A peaceful place. A place with more dumplings. They should teach this shit in schools.
Tonight, the pierogi! was the dumpling of choice.* Pierogi! are like little hand-held comfort pies: dumplings filled with mashed potatoes and cheese, smothered with caramelized onions. It’s like ten thousand Golden Retriever puppies sitting down at once and farting. Okay, the farting maybe does not sound so comforting, but tell me you don’t find it adorable when dogs sit down and accidentally let out a little poot, especially puppies. “Thbbbt.” Picture kittens if you’re a cat person.** Point is, it’s fucking heartwarming, as long as it’s not one of those dog death farts. But I don’t think puppies learn how to emit those until they hit about 6 months.
Ahem. I’ve probably just revealed more about myself in that paragraph than anything else. Anyway.
There’s no law that potato and cheese pierogi! should have cheddar, so I used some emmenthal that had been lingering in the cheese drawer just on the right side of “too long.” I peeled some teeny-tiny potatoes that really, judging from the number I did on my knuckles with the peeler, were never meant to be peeled. It was arduous, and I was not at all chagrined when Brian came home and found a big ole bag of full-sized potatoes in the other veg drawer of the fridge.
Once they were cooked, I could have riced them to get a perfectly smooth filling, but I could also have just mashed the hell out of them by hand and beaten the cheese in with a wooden spoon. I’ll let you guess which one I did.
*It feels like it should have an exclamation point.
**Or, the better option: become a dog person.
While I was doing that and caramelizing a pan of onions, Brian was putting the dough together in my not-so-secret boyfriend, the KitchenAid Professional 600 standing mixer. In looking at dough recipes, there was a clear division: pasta-esque doughs made with egg only, or dairy-rich doughs made with milk and/or sour cream and/or butter. Me not being Eastern European and Brian not knowing how to make pierogi! from scratch I didn’t know which was the more traditional, although since it’s Eastern Europe we’re talking about I figured the heavier version was probably the way to go. At the very least, the heavier version seemed more Midwestern.
The dough had to rest and chill for a while after kneading, so I did the same thing. I hope the dough didn’t mind having to listen to “Bamboleo” or not having a crossword puzzle to do while waiting like I did.
Brian, sadly, had to leave before the pierogi! were formed and cooked. Apparently, for some tiny percentage of people, going out to a club to hang out with other humans, drink beer and listen to bands play is more fun than staying home to make pierogi! from scratch while listening to the Gipsy Kings and perhaps doing a little solo cha cha while rolling the dough which is NOT AT ALL embarrassing.
I pity those people.
I rolled the chilled dough out, cut out the pierogi! and placed a little ball of cooled potato and cheese in the center of each (I won’t lie, it took a few tries to find the optimum potato-ball size for the diameter of dough circle). Fold and crimp, fold and crimp, and voila: pierogi! They got a quick bath in boiling water before being fried up in butter, as is proper. I also took a few minutes to warm up my onions and wilt up some of my old “this plate needs some green on it” standby, spinach. I realized a moment before venturing totally into the magical land of hypocrisy that the virtuosity of my vegetarian dinner was laughably false because I was eating potato and cheese-filled dough balls fried in butter. In these cases, spinach is usually called in to try to carry the day by saving some pretense of health.
It tried valiantly; I recognize that I ask a great deal of the humble green.
But hey, no red meat, right?
So I must have done something right, because these tasted like they were supposed to. I know that doesn’t sound like very high praise, but when making such an iconic and classic food, I think it’s the height of success to have it taste just like it’s supposed too. The dough was tender and crisped up nicely on the outside. The filling was warm and creamy, and the emmenthal cheese added a nutty undertone that played very well with the earthy potato. Caramelized onions make everything they touch delicious, and the whole unhealthily wonderful mess was offset by the bitter edge of the spinach.
Four pierogi! and a pile of spinach made for a very filling dinner indeed. That’s not to say that I couldn’t have eaten another, but I thought I’d leave well enough alone. Plus, by leaving the rest for Brian’s post-bar midnight snack, I become the BEST SPOUSE EVER. Who comes home drunk at 1 in the morning on a Tuesday to homemade pierogi!? Yeah, you know you want me.
makes 8-10 4-inch diameter pierogi!
1 c. + 2-4 tbsp. AP Flour
1/2 a beaten egg (I know, I know, but I was cooking for two. So double this, and freeze the leftovers instead of being all irritated)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened.
Chuck everything into a mixer fitted with a dough hook; start with 1 cup of flour, saving the rest in case your dough is too sticky. Let the ingredients come together and let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes or so. If your dough is sticky or tacky to the touch, add more flour by the spoonful until you get a smooth, firm dough. (You could also combine the ingredients in a FoPro and knead by hand, or mix all the wet and pour it into a well in the flour to do everything by hand.)
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for at least 40 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and roll it out to 1/8 inch thick. Fill with whatever the hell you want – potatoes and cheese, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, leftover braised beef, fruit and nuts for a dessert version, anything really.
Cook in boiling water for about 3 minutes, until they float up to the top, then fry ’til crisp in a pan with a few tablespoons of butter. Eat while listening to the Gipsy Kings for maximum cognitive dissonance.
Leave any extras uncooked and freeze them in a single layer; when they’re good and froze, you can throw ‘em in a ziploc.