Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sauerkraut Pierogi

If you're not familiar with pierogi, it's a filled pasta that's something like ravioli. When I was growing up, the traditional fillings were potato, sauerkraut, plum, and cheese. I was never fond of the plum.

Back when I was really young, pierogi used to be a special-occasion food. Mostly Christmas Eve, when one of my aunts would serve them.

When I got old enough to be interested in cooking, I asked her for the recipe, and was devastated to find out that she bought them from a Polish deli. I wanted to know how they were made, and my aunt had no idea.

While pierogi are similar to ravioli in form, they're not served the same way. Traditionally, they're boiled and served with some melted butter, sauteed onions, or bits of cooked, crumbled bacon. Leftover pierogi are pan-fried the next day - either in butter alone, or with a little bacon fat - to brown and reheat them.

The thing is that I like the reheated version better. That slight browning adds a lot of flavor. So usually I boil them first, then immediately fry them a bit.

While pierogi dough is very similar to other noodle doughs, one thing that makes it different is the addition of sour cream. Not all recipes use it, but I think it makes a difference. And of course, when you eat pierogi, it's traditional to serve it with sour cream.

Now that I think about it, the common ingredients in the traditional Polish foods I grew up with were sour cream, smoked meats, cabbage, black pepper, potatoes, and mushrooms. Not every dish had every ingredient, but it was a sure bet that one or more of them would show up. Most of those appear in this one dish.

When I most recently made these pierogi, I used my home-canned sauerkraut - 1 pint - but you can use commercially canned sauerkraut in a 14-ounce can instead. As far as the dried mushrooms, I used a dried Polish mushroom, but anything you like would be fine. If you don't have dried mushrooms, fresh cooked mushrooms would work as well.

Sauerkraut Pierogi

for the dough:
2 cups flour
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water (as needed)
for the filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 14-ounce can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
4 -6 dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft, then finely chopped
Several generous grinds of black pepper
For cooking and serving:
Sauteed onions
Cooked, crumbled bacon
Sour cream

To make the dough:
Combine all of the ingredients (holding back a couple tablespoons of water) and knead until you have a soft, stretchy dough. Add the extra water, if you need it. More, if you need that. If the dough is too wet, add flour as you knead. The dough should be soft and pliant, but not at all sticky or tacky. Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside while you make the filling. You can also refrigerate it and assemble the pierogi the next day.

For the filling:
Heat the butter in a medium frying pan and add the onions. Cook until they soften. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add the sauerkraut. I like my sauerkraut well-cooked  - until it softens and browns a bit, but that's up to you. If you want extra mushroom flavor, add some of the mushroom-soaking liquid. Cook, stirring as needed, until all the liquid is gone and the sauerkraut is as done as you like it. Taste for seasoning. You shouldn't need salt, since the sauerkraut is salty. Add pepper. Allow the mixture to cool completely before filling the pierogi.

To assemble the pierogi:
Divide the dough into several pieces to make it easier to work with. Flour your work surface and roll the dough very thin - less than half as thick as a corn tortilla. The dough will get thicker when you cook it, just like any noodle dough. You want it thick enough to hold the filling, but not so thick that you're eating a dumpling instead of a filled pasta.

Using a large biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass, cut circles from the dough. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the center of your dough circles. Wet the outside edge of the dough circles, fold the dough over, and press to seal, pressing out as much of the air in the center as possible. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal completely.

Continue with the rest of the dough and filling. You can reroll the scraps of dough and use it to make more pierogi.

To cook the pierogi:
Heat salted water to boiling and add the pierogi. Since this is a fresh pasta and the filling is already cooked, these cook very quickly. Once they come to the surface, let them cook another 30 seconds and remove them.

You can serve them as-is, or heat a bit of butter in a pan and cook the pierogi until they are browned on the bottom. Flip them over and cook until they're lightly browned on top.

Top with sauteed onions and/or cooked, crumbled bacon if desired. Serve with sour cream.

Note: uncooked pierogi freeze very well. Just lay them out on a sheet pan and freeze until solid. Then place them in a zip-top bag for storage. Cook the frozen pierogi in boiling water, just as you would cook the fresh ones. They take just a little bit longer.


leeapeea said...

this looks AMAZING! I'm not that familiar with Perogi's... what are some other common fillings?

Donna Currie said...

leeapeea, potato and cheese are the other two very common fillings. The potatoes version is like mashed potatoes, usually a heavy grind of pepper, and sometimes with a little bacon or onion. The cheese is a dry non-melting farmer's cheese which is sometimes a little sweet. There also used to be a meat filling that I wasn't all that fond of. And sometimes there's braised/fried cabbage instead of the sauerkraut. The fruit ones were usually plum, but sometimes cherries. I never liked the fruit ones very much.

These days, there are a lot of less-traditional fillings but I like to stick with the traditional favorites. I'll probably post some other fillings the next time I make some.

Roberta said...

My mom used to make the cheese filling with drained ricotta, cinnamon, raisins (plumped in hot water), a bit of sugar and an egg. We also made (and I still do) pierogies stuffed with chopped mushrooms, onions and sauerkraut, sauteed together and sauteed hamburger, mushrooms and sauerkraut. Both of those are bound together with a bit of sour cream. We never did the potato/cheese stuffing when I was young, but now I do. With some bacon, baby !

Pierogies are the essence of my comfort food. I usually only make them from scratch for Christmas, they're such a production. We never ate them just boiled...always pan-fried with butter and bread crumbs (or browned onions).

I *heart* pierogies !!!

Polka said...

Hi there! Your pierogie's looks so delicious. I recommend pierogis with buckwheat and cottage cheese. Recipes is the same as the Russian pierogies (potatoes+ cottage cheese), but instead of potatoes add buckwheat.

Rebecca Harrach said...

This recipe looks absolutely fantastic. My family has Polish origins, and while I never had these growing up, I have always felt drawn to them. It must be in my blood! I love the photos and the description of the ingredients common to this kind of cooking. Thanks so much.

Rocquie said...

These look beautiful and sound scrumptious.

Peggy said...

These definitely look like the perfect pierogi! Thanks for posting the recipe!

leeapeea said...

Made these last weekend for myself and a few friends. They went over well, though I think I'll add more onions to the filling next time as it was a bit salty. I had enough dough and some leftover mashed potatoes with scallions so I made 6 potato perogies and froze them... hope they'll work out!

Donna- by the time I got to re-rolling the scraps the 3rd time the dough was SUPER gluten-y... was I working it too much from the start maybe? Or is that just the way it goes?

Donna Currie said...

Leeapeea, it does get a little tough when you work it more, but if you let it sit for 20 minutes or so, it relaxes again. The real trick is to not add too much flour, so you don't end up with a really dry dough. Depending what the sauerkraut is like, sometimes I rinse it, and sometimes I just drain it. If I have fresh cabbage around, sometimes I'll do a mix of about 1/2 sauerkraut and 1/2 fresh shredded cabbage. I cook them together until the cabbage is the same texture as the sauerkraut.

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