Traditional Easter foods consist of baked meats (typically ham), various sweet breads and chocolate of all varieties. This can likely be attributed to the Lenten season, the 40 days prior to Easter when observant Christians often try to avoid indulgences. But for many Eastern European countries, such as the Ukraine, a staple Easter food is perogies, also known as “”pierogies” or pierożki”. Served boiled or pan-fried, perogies have always been a favorite of mine.
Perogies are Poland’s national dish and have been cherished there since the 13th century. Some believe perogies actually originated from China via Italy during the Marco Polo expeditions. Others argue that the Tartars brought the recipe West from the former Russian Empire. Although nothing is for sure, we do know that the word “pierogi” first appeared in Polish cookbooks in the late 17th century.
Perogies, for those unfamiliar, are basically crescent-shaped dough (with a dumpling-like appearance) that is traditionally filled with potato and cheddar cheese, (sometimes cottage cheese or sauerkraut). But perogies are not always savory, they can also be sweet, commonly stuffed with sweet cherry or blueberry filling.
I’m not sure how I first got introduced to perogies, but growing up in New York City I was exposed to them often. One of the restaurants I miss most is a simple (but well-known) Polish restaurant in Brooklyn we used to live by called Teresa’s. Known for their perogies (as well as their incredible blitzes and potato pancakes), Teresa’s was our go-to for an inexpensive, but delicious Polish feast. Served straight-up with a generous dollop of sour cream, there was nothing fancy about their perogies, but they were (and still are if you ask me) the best perogies around.
Sadly, I have not found many perogies in Northern California and I don’t get back to Brooklyn as often as I would like, so I decided to develop my own recipe. To be honest, my older sons love of anything with sour cream was also a motivating factor. I went with my favorite classic flavor, potato and cheddar cheese, and while these are not quick to whip, they are not impossible either and completely worth it.
Potato And Cheddar Perogies
- For the Dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
- 1 cup water
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- For the Filling:
- 1 1/2 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch of white pepper
- dash of ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- sour cream, for serving (optional)
- Step 1 For the Dough: Using a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid fitted with a dough attachment, add the flour, water, egg, oil, and salt. Mix on low, scrapping down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn the mixer up to medium and knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the mixer bowl covering the dough and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
- Step 2 For the Filling: While the dough is resting, make the filling. In a large saucepan add the cut potatoes and cover with water. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese, onion powder, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mash with a potato masher (or a large wooden spoon) until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
- Step 3 When mashed potatoes are cool enough to handle, spoon out a rounded teaspoon and lightly roll into a ball between palms of your hands. Place on a plate and set near your work station for later.
- Step 4 Forming and Filling the Perogies: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 half of the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out about 15 rounds with a lightly floured 3-inch cutter, or drinking glass.
- Step 5 Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Working with 1 round at a time, put 1 potato ball in center of round and close your hand to fold the round in half, enclosing the filling. Pinch edges together to seal completely. (Brush the edges lightly with water if the perogies are not sealing, do not leave any gaps. Transfer the pierogi to the prepared baking sheets and set aside. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling.
- Step 6 Cooking the Perogies: Fill a large stock pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, and working in batches, add some perogies, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking and cook for about 5 minutes from time perogies float to surface. Transfer the cooked perogies with a slotted spoon and place back on the baking sheet. Repeat the above process until all the perogies are cooked.
- Step 7 Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of butter. When hot, add several of the perogies (being careful not to overcrowd them) and pan-fry until golden, about 1-2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining perogies.
- Step 8 Serve perogies warm with a side of sour cream.