HALLELUJAH! IT’S PIEROGI FEST!
What is there to say about pierogi? I don’t have an old family recipe; pierogi are a Polish specialty, not Russian, and I don’t think that I ate one of these beautiful little babies until I lived in Paris. Delicate, pale, tangy dough filled with a luscious, savory filling, primped and preened and cooed over and coddled, handle with kid gloves, please, puffed up into little pillows to be fried until golden and fragrant and popped into the mouth where they give blissful pleasure, sublime.
But, really, sometimes we just likes to have fun, don’t we now?! Lying in bed at night, staring up into the inky blackness that surrounds me, waiting for my brother’s ghost to send me a signal of some kind that he is watching over me, occasionally swatting at that dang gnat or mosquito or whatever that keeps dive-bombing my head, swooping in low for a hit then quickly soaring out of sight again, chuckling to himself I am sure, thoughts swirl through my head: lunch tomorrow with Julie and Manu, don’t forget to bake the rest of the sugar cookies so you can wrap them up for Rosalie to take home, pierogi…pierogi, I must write up my post, ah I have an article to write for The Daily Tiffin, must call Mme. Furon back on Monday morning, peirogi…pierogi….pierogi. Until I fall asleep.
And then I realize that I really don’t have anything special to say about pierogi! So, tell me, what’s wrong with that? Why did I make pierogi in the first place? Well, several years ago I came across a recipe and thought it sounded delicious and fun. Potatoes and mushrooms? Yeah, I could do that! And I did! The dough was a bit troublesome because of the stickiness, but the results were scrumptious! And that first time around I served boiled pierogi, not fried. Quite yummy! We all loved the tanginess of the yogurt, the wonderful savory filling, warm and Autumn-y, the chewiness of the “dumpling” itself was so satisfying. And then that was that. Hadn’t made them again for years. Well, Autumn is once more upon us, days of bright sun fading into gray, cold wind whistling through the trees, Marty, disgusted, tip-toeing through the wet, wet leaves piled up under the trees in the square where we walk him, poor guy, with no respite. Mushrooms of all sorts in golden, white and milk-chocolate brown pile up at the market, fluffy champignons de Paris, pale, funny pieds de moutons, “sheep feet”, delicate dark yellow chanterelles and girolles and woodsy cepes large and small, valuable like jewels. Potatoes galore – we are a fingerling-producing region, after all, and the French are potato people: charlottes and Bintje, violettes and la bonotte. Bundles of forest-green thyme and bay, rosemary and parsley adorn the vegetable displays, huge slices of deep orange pumpkins, their seeds gaily spilling from their centers, tiny, decorative squash in greens and golds and browns and yellows, the colors of Autumn.
Where does inspiration come from? A lot of my readers ask me that question. What inspires me to write what I write? How do I find the words that fill each post on my blog? Memories, emotions, sensations stirred up by spying a certain ingredient nestled amongst the uninspiring on a market stall, a battered old cookbook that belonged to mom or dad, the incessant rains of Autumn or the unrelenting heat of a summer day, something mentioned haphazardly here at home or on a blog, family secrets laughed over with my sister. And sometimes I sit in front of my keyboard, fingers tap tapping on the desk, up and down, back and forth between desk and tv and kitchen. Is the gang around on twitter or my gal pals over on FB? Nothing, nothing… what can I write? Nothing is coming, blank. Sometimes it flows freely, ideas tripping over each other pell-mell in their rush to get out of my head and onto the page as I sit and chuckle to myself. Sometimes the thoughts, the story, the emotions are slow and lazy, romantic or sad, swirling around my tender heart, spilling out onto the page through my tears or my smiles, one image fading into the other. Food therapy, my husband calls it as my stories stir up ideas for cakes or stews or as certain dishes evoke memories I thought were long lost and buried deep inside some secret spot or have me rushing to pull the heavy photo albums off the shelf calling “oh, remember when we…?” as I flip through the stiff pages. Stories, memories, emotions all intertwined in what I eat, cook and bake, or inversely, the simple act of chopping, stirring, folding, kneading pulling at my heart, soothing and calming me, thoughts running wild, memories slipping in and out, making me feel sad or happy, excited or sexy.
My writing, my food, impossible to separate them, Siamese twins, the happy couple.
And then sometimes, just once in a while, nothing. Sometimes I just want to laugh. Sometimes I just want to be silly. Pierogi. Say it again louder PIEROGI, hard P as lips poof together, hold it...PPP, then that oh-so satisfying RO rolled on the tip of the tongue tucked in behind the upper front teeth, let it linger, drag it out, feel the vibrations, then followed hard on her heels by the guttural G-G-G G and the I pronounced EEEEE pulling my lips into a smile as I jump up and down, flapping my arms pierogi pierogi pierogi and husband mutters “T’es complètement folle, tu sais?”
I recently received an award from Barbara of Barbara Bakes, my twitter pal, my Mac Sistah, my friend. She has gone and given me the Inspiration Award. I am touched, Barbara, happy and amazed that I can inspire you. I do hope that every day my recipes, simple as they are, inspire some of you out there to cook or bake or attempt yeast breads or puff pastry or macarons, convince some of you baking virgins to butter a baking tin and find a wooden spoon, plug in an electric mixer and bake. I dream of my words inspiring, making you dream, laugh, cry, hoping my memories stir up emotions and memories in each of you. I thank you, Barbara, and all of my readers, from the bottom of my heart.
I would like to pass this award on to so many people who inspire me every day in so many ways: people who inspire me to push myself in the kitchen, people who inspire me to look at myself and put the best of myself, my heart into my writing and people who inspire me to carry on each day through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad and embrace what’s best in those around me and keep smiling, but I can’t do that here. So I think today I’ll pass on the Inspiration Award to 3 fabulous food bloggers and wonderful, dear friends who make me laugh every day whether on twitter, Facebook or whenever I go over and read their blogs, and who reach out with a virtual hug and kind words and help me to carry on.
Nanette aka Ms. Gourmet of The Gourmet Worrier
Claire of Colloquial Cooking
Natashya of Living in the Kitchen With Puppies
You ladies don’t know how many ways you inspire me every day.
WONDERFUL SAVORY PIEROGI
Just for fun!
For the dough:
2 cups (500 ml) full fat plain or Greek yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
2 ¼ cups (280 g) flour + more for kneading
For the filling:
¾ lb (350 g) potato for mashing
1 lb (500 g) white mushrooms, trimmed and finely diced
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 - 6 Tbs (60 - 90 g) unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Full-fat or Greek yogurt for serving
Prepare the dough:
Beat the yogurt, the egg and the salt together with an electric beater on low until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the flour, beating until smooth. The dough will be very sticky.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured work surface and knead in enough flour until the dough is smooth and workable (can be rolled out and cut). It will be tacky but not so sticky that it runs all over the work surface and sticks to your hands in a major way.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to firm up.
Prepare the filling:
Chop the onions. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions until caramelized a deep brown, caramelized but not burned. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet, melt another 2 tablespoons of butter and add the chopped mushrooms. Salt and pepper the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender and all the liquid exuded by the mushrooms has evaporated, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
While you are cooking the onions and mushrooms, peel and quarter the potato(es) and place in a small pot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until soft and mashable, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
If you want the filling a bit richer, melt the extra 2 tablespoons of butter and add to the potatoes. Mash and whip the potatoes until smooth and fluffy. Fold in the cooked mushrooms and the caramelized onions until well blended. Salt and pepper again to taste.
Make the Pierogi:
Take the dough out of the fridge and work with half at a time. The other half keep in the fridge.
Keeping both your work surface and the surface of the dough well floured, gently roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch (1/2 cm), gently lifting it up to flour underneath and turn. Keeping your hands floured also helps.
Using a 3-inch (7 ½ cm) round cookie cutter (they can be made larger if you like) carefully cut out circles, trying not to deform the circles of dough too much, although this dough is easy to work with and “correctable”. I lifted up the circles, 2 or 3 at a time, and made sure they were on a floured section of the table before trying to fill and fold. With floured fingertips, I tapped each circle a bit to stretch out the circle. Place a mounded teaspoon of filling just off of the center of each round of dough.
Now, gently pull the wider half over the mound of filling and place the side edge-to-edge with the side with the dough.
Now, with the edges matching/meeting, just press with the side of your floured index finger, pulling the dough and pressing to seal. The edge should be a bit less than a finger’s-width. This will also keep the edge from being too thick. Be very careful not to rip the dough covering the filling.
As you form the pieorgi, 1, 2 or at the most 3 at a time, place them on a floured or lined and floured plate or baking sheet until you are ready to cook.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, lower a bit to a healthy simmer and drop in the pieorgi just 6 or 7 at a time (they shouldn’t crowd or overlap in the pan). Allow to cook for 6 to 7 minutes. They should float to the top and, when lifted out with a slotted spoon, should look puffy. Cook the rest in batches.
Place on towels to drain.
To fry, simply heat olive oil or a mixture of butter and olive oil in a skillet and fry the pierogi for a few minutes per side, in batches, again, not overcrowding. They should be golden on each side.
Serve hot with extra yogurt for dipping.
A chilled bottle of white, a plate of pierogi with yogurt for dipping and a fun movie on tv and the evening promises to be good! Enjoy!