Welcome to 2021! Wow, what an accomplishment and reason to appreciate life. After the year we’ve had I believe comfort food is in order, and with so many places closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a home cooked dish is not only in order but welcomed once again.
Let’s face it, 2020 was a very trying year, but it also was a faith building year — a year of coming together in the midst of us having to be distant. Some of us didn’t get to physically connect with our loved ones during the holidays or travel much like we have grown accustom to, but we learned to enjoy our immediate families a little more. We’ve learned to take better care of ourselves as we consider the health and safety of others. Furthermore, we’ve gained a new appreciation for the talents we possess and have possibly repressed because “we didn’t have the time.”
This year I’ve decided to showcase different foods from multiple nationalities. Some I’ve had and others are new to me.
To start the new year, I decided to showcase a favorite of one of my children, Kaylah Thomas. She requested these Polish potato dumplings that I used to make when they were younger for her birthday back in December. These potato dumplings are called pierogies, and they are boiled and then the traditional next step (if desired) is to pan fry them, but my family loves to have them deep fried to a nice crisp. These yummy pockets of seasoned mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese are the ultimate in comfort finger foods.
Like many of my recipes, these pierogies are very versatile. You can make them sweet or savory, boiled, pan fried or deep fried. I’ve experimented with these delightful pockets of love with a lot of different ingredients, but my family loves them with the white potatoes and cheddar cheese, hot and fresh out of the oil with sour cream and sprinkled with a little salt. Of course you can try fruit like peaches, apple pie filling, blueberries with cream cheese or even with mashed potatoes and shredded beef brisket. Cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just let go of your inhibitions and explore.
I was shocked that Kaylah had asked me to make the pierogies because I hadn’t made them in a number of years. I was proud that she and her siblings had remembered them and also liked them that much. I was always experimenting with food as they were growing up because being a foodie myself, I wanted their palates to be open to new cultural foods from other nationalities without fear or apprehension. I also want all of you to have a similar experience. Food brings us together even in times we are supposed to be apart.
Now let’s roll up our sleeves, wash our hands and get started making our own version of Cheddar and Potato Pierogies.
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Cheddar and Potato Pierogies
For the dough:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water (add more water by the tablespoon as needed)
For the filling:
5 russet potatoes roughly cubed
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Pour in the sour cream, eggs and a tablespoon of water. Mix it slowly and carefully. The dough will be quite sticky. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while you make the filling.
Put the chopped potatoes in a pot and cover with water, then add a little bit of salt. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat before removing the lid. Let the potatoes cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Test them with a fork, if it goes through easily, they’re done.
Drain the potatoes and add grated cheese, salt, pepper and any additions (bacon, beef brisket, etc.). I like sharp cheddar cheese. I usually use several additions, and you should play around with some of your favorite things.
Next, mash the potatoes with an electric mixer or just two forks. Once the filling is ready, get the family to help you because filling the pierogies takes some time.
Flour your countertop liberally. Split the dough in half. Keep one half covered, but place the other half on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out as many 3- to 4-inch dough circles as possible, using a round cookie cutter or a drinking glass.
Drop about a tablespoon of filling in the center of one circle of dough. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges to create a dumpling. The stickiness of the dough should ensure a tight seal.
Lay the dumpling on a floured surface and use a fork to squish the edges together. Repeat until you run out of circles. Then repeat everything with the remaining dough.
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Once you have all your pierogies formed, boil a pot of water and add about 12 pierogies. Let them cook until they rise to the top, about 1 minute. Pull out the boiled pierogies with a spoon, making sure they are drained of water, then repeat with the remainder in the same pot of water.
If you’re planning to freeze some of the pierogies, let them cool down post-boiling and then put them in freezer bags with the air squeezed out. I usually do 12 per freezer bag. They will keep for at least 6 months in the freezer.
You can eat the pierogies just boiled, but if you’re like my family, you’ll prefer them fried afterward. For a more traditional approach, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan on medium heat, then fry the pierogies. Flip them every few minutes until they’re browned on all sides. For the way my family prefers them, you will need to deep fry them in cooking oil but don’t allow them to overcook because they may burst at the seams and lose the filling and become too hard. A light golden brown should be your goal.
Source: Michelle Madden