Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, and Adam Richman have all made careers on the Travel Channel, introducing viewers to the cultures of countries abroad and on our own domestic turf through food. Just as there are differences in the styles of barbeque that come from local cultural influences within our country, there are localized cultural differences in other countries that influence their cuisines as well. In this section, I will occasionally interject some of the cultural history associated the recipes shared here.
For instance, in Poland, the northern region closer to the Baltic Sea has more seafood dishes, particularly dishes with carp and herring. Whereas the northeastern and northwestern regions have more hog farms and pork dishes. Poles made kasha (groats) from millet, lentils, barley, oats and buckwheat. The west and southern mountain area was where a lot of beets and ubiquitous potatoes were grown. You may find it hard to believe, but the predominance of potatoes found in Polish cuisine, like in much of Europe, did not come about until after Columbus found America. Below is an easy, delicious recipe for a Polish comfort food classic made with potatoes, onions & cheese. This dish is also an economical budget stretcher and perfect for “Meatless Monday.”
Homemade Polish Pierogi
- 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra to serve with the pierogi
- 1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
- butter and onions for sauteing
- ingredients for filling of your choice (potato & cheese filling recipe below)
To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes). You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Each batch of dough makes about 12-15 pierogies, depending on size.
Potato, Cheese & Onion Filling:
Peel and boil 5 large potatoes until soft. Red potatoes are especially good for this. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop 1 large onion and saute in butter until soft and translucent. Mash the potatoes with the sauted onions and 4-8oz of grated cheddar cheese (depending on how cheesy you want your pierogies), adding salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some fresh parsley, bacon bits, chives, or other enhancements if you desire. I like to reduce the potatoes from 5 down to 3, and substitute 1.5 cups each of shredded cabbage & carrots sauteed in butter or vegetable oil. Let the potato mixture cool and then form into 1″ balls.
Prepare the Pierogies
Roll the pierogi dough on a floured board or countertop until 1/8″ thick. Cut circles of dough (2″ for small pierogies and 3-3 1/2″ for large pierogies) with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.
Boil the perogies a few at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse in cool water and let dry.
Saute chopped onions in butter in a large pan until onions are soft. Then add pierogies and pan fry until lightly crispy. Serve with a side of sour cream for a true Pittsburgh pierogi meal.
Homemade Pierogi Tips:
- If you are having a hard time getting the edges to stick together, you may have too much flour in the dough. Add a little water to help get a good seal.
- If you don’t want to cook all of the pierogies right away, you can refrigerate them (uncooked) for several days or freeze them for up to several months.
- You can fill pierogies with pretty much anything you want, though potato and cheese is the most common.
Halvorsen, Francine. Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
Nowakowski, Jacek, and Marlene Perrin. Polish Touches: Recipes and Traditions. Iowa City: Penfield Press, 1996.
Urban-Klaehn, Jagoda article #299. Retrieved August 5, 2012 from http://culture.polishsite.us/articles/art299fr.htm
Retrieved August 7, 2012 from http://www.polandforvisitors.com/travel_poland/polish_food
Retrieved August 7, 2012 fromhttp://pittsburgh.about.com/od/recipes/r/pierogies.htm
Retrieved August 7, 2012 from http://www.tastingpoland.com/food/history_of_cuisine.html