Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ultimate Comfort Food

Everyone has a favorite comfort food. Growing up my Mom would give me scrambled eggs and toast whenever I was sick. To this day nothing is more comforting to me than breakfast food. While I like macaroni and cheese and chicken pot pie as much as the next guy, the only other food that warms my soul is a pierogie.
As the only surviving member of her family after the holocaust, one of my grandmother’s few childhood memories is of making pierogies. I’ve been making them with her and my mother my entire life.

It has been at least a couple years since I tackled them alone in my own kitchen. So here goes!
2 Cups Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1 Egg
5 Russet Potatoes Peeled and Chopped
1 Medium Yellow Onion
6 Bacon Strips
Start by making your filling. Boil potatoes until tender, drain and smash them. In another pan cook your bacon, set aside and crumble, reserving a tablespoon of bacon grease in your pan. Cook onion in the bacon grease until translucent and then add your potatoes and crumbled bacon to your onions and mix. Resist the urge to add sour cream or milk to this as you want your filling to be pretty dry so that it doesn’t compromise your dough. Some people do add cheese, but that’s just not how Grandma did it, so I don’t. You will have more filling than dough for this recipe, but you can continue to make batches of dough as needed.
Now it’s time to tackle the dough. Simple ingredients aside, it can be a little tricky. I make a little well in my flour and add the egg and about 6 tablespoons of water. Then I get dirty, and work this all together with my hands. I add tablespoons of water until the dough is slightly tacky and gooey but forms into a ball. I find the sweet spot is about 12 to 13 tablespoons of water. Why tablespoons? As grandma says, you can always add more water but you can’t take it out. I hear people like to add oil to the dough, but why add more fat when it doesn’t improve the taste or consistency of the dough. You’re about to eat starch, filled with starch, with bacon on top.

I cut this amount of dough in half and leave one half sitting in the bowl covered by a towel. It does dry out easily. Flour your surface generously, and plop your gummy dough ball into the flour and need it until it comes together smoothly. Rolling this out is like rolling out a ball of semi dry glue. Have some patience. It needs to be about an eighth of an inch thick or so. If your dough is too thick, your pierogies will be too dumpling like. Conversely, if it is too thin, the pierogies will tear in the cooking process and turn into mush.
I use the mouth of a cup to make circles in the dough. You can make them however big or small you want. I won’t judge you. The size I make mine requires that I use a heaping teaspoon or so of filling. Place the filling in the center of your dough circle and then fold it in half and press the edges together. I find it’s easier to cup the dough and filling in one hand and press the edges together with the other. If the edges won’t come together, rub a little water on the inside edges of your pierogie.

Place your finished pierogies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can then freeze any extras this way. Once they are completely frozen you can plop them into a bag in the freezer without worry that they will stick. Making these has obviously been time consuming. However, once you have a frozen stash, they make for one of the fastest meals in the kitchen. I actually stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so before cooking them. I find it helps keep them from falling apart.
Look it's not a sexy food, it's a comfort food. They arn't pretty, and mine really arn't pretty. But boy are they good!
Boil a large pot of water and gently put them in. When they float to the top they are done. At the size below they only take a couple of minutes. Yes that’s kielbasa at the bottom. It’s a hot dog for grown-ups, how could I forget it! I know people like to then fry Pierogies in a pan, but again grandma doesn’t, so I don’t.

Plate up and enjoy!

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