Have you ever had pierogi? When I was a kid, they weren't as well known as they are now, but along with their current popularity came some non-traditional modifications. Fillings have gotten more varied. Which isn't terrible, but it still seems odd to me to see cheddar cheese in pierogi.
And some people (gasp!) deep fry them.
Pierogi - if you don't know them - are sort of like ravioli. They're a filled pasta. But unlike ravioli that's served with a sauce, pierogi are boiled and served with a little melted butter. Sour cream is a traditional topping.
That's the first day. But the second day, folks would heat up some butter - or maybe some bacon fat - and fry the leftover pierogi, browning them a bit. At that point, chopped onions or might be cooked with the pierogi, or they might be served with some crumbled bacon.
And again, sour cream.
But my mom liked pierogi best when it was fried, so we didn't do the first-day, second day thing. She'd boil them just to cook the noodles, then give them a little fry before serving them. And that's usually what I do, too.
When I was a kid, the traditional and most common) savory fillings were sauerkraut, potato, cheese, or meat. More rare were mushroom pierogi or cabbage pierogi. There were also sweet pierogi filled with plums. I never cared for those at all.
Out of the most common savory ones, I never liked the meat-filled ones. The cheese weren't my favorite, but I didn't mind them if I accidentally picked one. Potato was my second favorite. I'd pick a light-colored pierogi, hoping it had a potato filling instead of cheese. But my favorite was sauerkraut. I adored the sauerkraut pierogi.
There are probably thousands of recipes for cooking sauerkraut, from a basic draining and rinsing and heating of the preserved kraut, to longer cooking cooking with more ingredients. I like mine cooked longer, until it's browned a bit and I often add cabbage and onions. Sometimes I add mushrooms. Here's one of my recipes.
But you can use just about any sauerkraut recipe you like.
Pierogi dough isn't the same as dough used for ravioli or spaghetti - it's a softer dough, and richer. Many recipes include sour cream, which makes perfect sense, since sour cream is so common in Polish cooking.
When making pierogi, one key to getting it right is to make sure the filling isn't too wet. I decided to add a bit of Kary's Dry Roux to the sauerkraut filling to help keep any moisture from causing problems.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 to 1 1/2 cups prepared sauerkraut
2 teapoons Kary's Dry Roux
Pile the dough on your counter in a mountain-like formation. Create a well in the center of the dough. Hey! It's a volcano!
Put the egg, sour cream, and salt in the center of the well. Add about half of the water.
Use a fork to break the egg yolk and begin stirring the mixture, drawing in some of the flour to make a paste. Add the remainder of the water and continue stirring, drawing in more of the flour until you can start kneading the dough.
If the dough is too sticky to knead, dust it with flour, but try to avoid adding any. The goal is to have a soft, pliable dough. I should be soft and pliable; tacky, but not sticky.
If you have a stand mixer. using that to mix the dough is much easier, and you're less likely to add extra flour that you don't need.
If you're using a stand mixer, toss all the dough ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the flat paddle until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. continue mixing at medium speed until the dough becomes smooth and stretchy. It should be tacky - like a post-it note. But not sticky.
Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes so the gluten relaxes and makes it easier to roll.
I find that it's easiest to deal with pierogi in batches. Like this:
Sprinkle some flour on a baking sheet.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Flour your work surface lightly. Roll the dough to slightly larger than 9 inches square. If it's not exactly square, that's fine, but if you can get it sort-of square, you'll be able to cut more rounds from each piece.
Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter (or something similar) cut 9 rounds from your dough. I used a fluted biscuit cutter, but a plain round one is just fine. Gather the excess dough and set it aside - you can re-roll it to make more pierogi.
Brush the bottom half of the dough circles with water - a pastry or silicone brush is fine, or just dip your finger in water and brush the bottom edge of the dough. This will help the dough stick to itself when you fold it over.
Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Make sure it's a compacted rather than fluffy. You don't need a lot of filling. After you've folded the first one, you'll get an idea of how much will work.
Fold the top of the dough over the bottom, and press to seal all around the edge. For extra security, you can press the fork tines all around the edge.
Continue with the rest of the rounds and with the other three pieces of dough. As you finish with the pierogi, put them on the baking sheet, not touching each other.
Gather and roll the scraps. You'll notice that the dough is stiffer than before - that's from the flour that got added to the dough as you were rolling it out the first time. Roll the dough as thin as previously.
Cut more rounds and fill and fold as before. You can reroll the scraps a third time, but after that the scraps might be too stiff for a fourth attempt. You could use those scraps to make some regular noodles, if you like.
You can cook your pierogi right away, or put the baking sheet in the freezer until they're frozen solid, then put them in a plastic bag and stash them in the freezer.
To cook the pierogi:
Heat water to a boil in a large pot - or a smaller one, if you're cooking fewer pierogi. Add as many pierogi as you want to cook. These cook quickly, since the pasta is fresh. Once they float to the top, let them cook another minute or two.
Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a frying pan - more butter for more pierogi. Transfer the cooked pierogi to the frying pan. Let them brown a bit on the bottom, then flip them over and let them get a little brown on top.
If you like, you can serve the pierogi with some sauteed onions or mushrooms, or some crumbled bacon on top.
Serve with sour cream at the table.