If today’s 17th August, I’m in Denmark. But I didn’t want to miss this month’s challenge. We’ve been carried to Eastern Europe, to Poland, to make pierogi. At Wikipedia we are told that pierogi are baked or boiled dumplings, in crescent shape, that most commonly are filled with sauerkraut, cheese, mashed potatoes, cabbage, onion, meat, hard boiled eggs, or a combination of any of those. They are made with fruit fillings too. They are served with generous amounts of sour cream and with a bacon or fried onion garnish. The most popular are the pierogi ruskie, filled with cheese, mashed potatoes and onion. Pierogi filled with meat are called pelmeni and originate from Siberia; they are widely popular all over Rusia, as well as in some of the ex-socialist countries. We were given permission to use a filling that reflected our local diet, therefore I chose a succulent chesnuts filling with Ibérico ham. That’s why I called them fusion pierogi…
I loved the idea of making these pierogi related to the Siberian pelmeni. I have a fond memory of the first time I tasted pelmeni. It was 15 years ago that D. was participating in a project with some British colleagues. Among them was Claire, a charming linguist that was married to a Russian guy from Vladivostok. At a certain moment D. needed to go to London for some project meeting and I joined him. One evening Claire invited the whole bunch for dinner to her place. Her parents-in-law, Siberian russians, happened to be visiting and they had brought along several tons of pelmeni. Of course the pelmeni were part of the dinner and I remember Claire begging us, encouraging us to help her get rid of their pelmeni surplus… That wasn’t difficult, as they were quite delicious, boiled in a clear broth, that evening of an oddly warm January in Britain…
I’ve found pierogi very easy to make. The dough is similar to that of Italian pasta, but because not all the liquid is egg, the consistency is different. It’s not so smooth and satiny, but somewhat easier to handle.
The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.
Yields around 35 dumplings, 8 cm round
Dough (traditional polish recipe):
- 300g pasta flour (the recipe calls for all-purpose flour)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 125ml water (1/2 cup)
- Mix the egg, water and salt in a food processor. Add the flour and mix. Roll it a couple of times on the countertop with a rolling pin. Wrap in plastic foil and leave to rest 20 minutes.
- Take a portion and roll it to a maximum thickness of 3mm. Using a glass or a cookie cutter of 8cm diameter (the recipe calls for 5cm rounds) cut dough in rounds and fill them with a heaped teaspoon of the filling of your choice. This video of an Ucranian granny teaching to make the dumplings is just adorable. Set the dumplings aside on a lightly floured surface. The dough only slightly adheres to the surface, but it’s sticky enough to seal the edges without moistening them.
- 150g dried chestnuts
- 1/2 cup sweet Sherry wine
- 1 cup homemade beef stock
- 5 large slices of Ibérico ham
- 1 dash of cream
- Put the chestnuts in water to soak overnight. The next day, bring them to a boil with the stock and the Sherry. Add some water if necessary to cover the chestnuts. Boil 3/4 hour, until cooked through.
- Drain the liquid but don’t discard it, then mash the chestnuts. Add a dash of cream to soften the puree and some spoonfuls of the boiling liquid if it’s too dry.
- Finely cut the ham and fry it in a pan, slowly heating it till it starts releasing its own fat. When crispy, add it to the chestnut puree along with the fat. Mix well and add salt if necessary.
Finishing the pierogi:
- Bring salted water to a boil and add thepierogi. When the pierogi float to the surface, se count 5-8 minutes, depending on how much al dente you like them (the original recipe calls for a shorter boiling time, but my dumplings where too hard with only 3 minutes boiling, I guess it depends on the type of flour).
- For not to affect the delicate flavor of the chestnuts, I decided to serve the dumplings with a simple sage butter. But I believe that a mushroom sauce would be a wonderful pairing too.
- If you have pierogi or filling leftovers, just freeze them and wait till the cold arrives… I’m sure I will feel more like eating them than in this heat, don’t you agree? These Eastern dishes and the chestnut filling make me long for the fall or the winter…