Monday, October 18, 2010

Steelers Gameday - Homemade Pierogies

Generally speaking, we try to go huge when it comes to Steelers gamedays.  I always try to do something fun in the kitchen on fall Sundays, as long as I can finish all of it before the game starts, because it would be a sin to miss any of the game.  We have a wealth of recipes that we go to - especially for big games: some with nostalgic value for us personally, some with strong family ties (like my wife's family chili recipe that was served to the 70s Super Bowl era Steelers on the reg... I haven't asked for permission to share that one yet :o  ), and some that just remind of us of home.

Pierogies are kind of a Pittsburgh birthright.  I have fond memories of going to the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern on Thursday nights in college and getting a plate of pierogies and haluski to go with dollar bottle night (or skunk bottle night, let's call a spade a spade... besides, their clientele would have been there regardless of what they called it) .  By the time they ran out of dollar bottles, it was time to go to the Upstage for 80's night, hang out with friends, and watch people embarass themselves dancing; like the 5'7" guy who went about 250 and wore loud print button downs unbuttoned to the middle of his chest so that you could see his chest hair sticking out.  He only ever danced in front of the mirrors so that he could watch himself making hot faces.  Good times.  Now that you're hungry...

I have made homemade pierogies a few times, but this recipe has easily been my most successful.  The dough slightly resembles pie dough in my mind, and when you fry the pierogies up after boiling them, the butter in the dough makes them incredibly crispy and gives them an almost pastry-like texture.  It is a fantastic dough recipe - it's pliable, tastes great, and I had not a single break during the cooking process.  I made 2 fillings - the standard potato / cheese / onion, and my personal favorite, a peppery ricotta/cottage cheese mixture.  A plate of these, a Steelers win versus the Browns, maybe an Iron City... seriously, what more could you ask for?  I guess we could actually be in Pittsburgh, that would be a good place to start.

This recipe makes about 30 pierogies.  They freeze well, so if you're going to go through all this trouble, you  might as well make a big batch.  I did this over a 2 day period (day 1 = filling, day 2 = dough and pierogi making), it is a lot to do in a single day and you might as well enjoy yourself.

The Dough:

4 cups flour, plus extra
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream, plus extra to serve with the pierogi
1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces

Mix the flour and the salt together on a clean large surface and create a well in the middle.  Beat the eggs slightly and then pour into the middle of the well.  Using a fork, work the eggs into the flour surrounding the well. When incorporated, add the sour cream and butter.  My butter was still a little cold, so I had to use my fingers to make sure that I broke up the butter as much as possible.  Use your hands to combine everything and begin kneading.  At first it will seem like the dough needs much more moisture but just keep working it, and eventually the eggs will work their magic and it will all come together.  Knead until smooth, maybe about 7 minutes or so.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Finished dough

The Fillings:

Potato, Cheese, and Onion

I made entirely too much of this, so here is the halved recipe

2-3 Russet potatoes
1 sweet onion
2 tbsp minced fresh chives
4-6 oz cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Start with the onion:  I wanted a deeply caramelized onion because they are so sweet and good.  Cut the onion in half, remove the outer layer, and then cut inward towards the core on an angle.  What you want to do is cut "with the grain" of the onion to make thin strips.  This allows the onion to soften quicker.  Saute the onions in butter for about 30 minutes on med-low heat, until caramelized.  While the onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and dice them.  Boil until soft and then drain.  Mash or rice (new ricer!) the potatoes into a bowl and allow to cool.  Add in the chives, salt, pepper and cheese.  I waited for the potatoes to cool because I didn't want to cheese to melt in the mixture.  When the onions are done, add them to the mixture and let sit.

Finished potato filling

Cottage Cheese/Ricotta:

I love love love this filling.  This may make too much, depending on how many of this type of pierogies you want to make, so scale as needed.

1 14oz container cottage cheese
3 oz ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp pepper

Drain the cottage cheese and ricotta for at least an hour, or as long as two.  If the cheese doesn't drain, the pierogi will be really hard to fill, because the cheese will want to squirt out of every open seam.  No fun.  Transfer drained cheese to a bowl, crack the egg in, add the salt, and mix well.  Keep chilled, it will make filling easier.

Finished cheese filling

Making the little 'gi's:
Step 1:  stretch out your back. It will hurt after this.

Step 2:  divide the dough in half, flour your surface and begin rolling out with a rolling pin.  It should be quite thin - 1/16" or so when finished.  Find a cutting implement that is roughly 3-4" in diameter (I started off using the lid from the ricotta until my fine lady pointed out that we had cookie cutters that were the same size.  I am stupid.  She is not.  The sharper the object the better.

Score your rolled out dough with your cutting implement to make the most efficient use of your dough configuration (can you tell that I am part-programmer?).  Really though, this dough is a serious pain in the ass to roll out a second time, so you want to make sure that you get the most pierogies possible out of each run.  I ended up making weird semi-broken raviolis with the leftover dough because I could not get it to stay rolled out a second time.  It becomes too glutenous.

Pull away the excess dough and begin filling each pierogi.  Have a small cup of water with a pastry brush or even just your finger nearby to help glue the edges.

To fill the pierogi, place about 1 tsp (or more depending on the diameter of the rounds) of filling in the middle of the pierogi.  Brush the near edge with water and grab the far edge of the round.  Use one hand to hold the filling in place and the other hand to pull the far edge over to the front of the pierogi.  Press to seal the front of the pierogi and work out to one edge using the palm of your hand.  Spin the pierogi around if necessary and seal the other side using your palm. You want to remove as much air as possible from the filling, so closing off one side and then the other allows you to push as much out as you can.  If you kind of curl your palm down over the top of the pierogi and then press the edges, I find that that helps too.  Use the tines of a fork to press the edges and really seal them.  Be careful that you don't poke holes in the pierogi by pressing too far in.

The rest is easy, get some salted boiling water going and start sauteeing some onions in butter (cast iron if you can).  Boil your pierogies until they float, then for a couple minutes more (raw dough is no good).  Transfer the pierogies to the skillet and fry until golden on each side - maybe 4-5 minutes.
Fry my little babies, Fry!!

Serve with whatever you want but our standards include kielbasa, mustard, sauerkraut, and sour cream.

Congratulations, you are now Polish by rite!  Enjoy your new hard to pronounce last name!


  1. Awesome post. Especially enjoyed relating back to home memories. Food's got a great way of bringing you back.

    Oh, and IRON CITY BREW! Can you actually get that down south?

  2. Definitely - there are tons of Pittsburgh ex-pats down here, so it is actually not too hard to get. A Steelers bar near my house sells it by the bucket during games. The Steelers bar I went to in Chicago (Durkins, in Lincoln Park-ish) actually had a waitress that walked around and took orders for Primanti's-style sandwiches also, ha.