With all due respect to ravioli, and all of the other stuffed pastas/doughs that exist around the world, I’m partial to the pierogi. These dumplings are creamy and savory, cooked in butter and served with cooked onion and sour cream. The version pictured here uses half whole wheat flour that I ground myself at home (which is why they look somewhat rustic). So, when you use all-purpose flour (or even some store-bought whole wheat flour) and the pierogi look a little different from these ones, that’s why.
Makes: 24 dumplings, 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 1 hour
About 3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
1 cup Mashed Potatoes (see recipe below)
24 round or square dumpling wrappers (to make your own, see recipe below)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Sour cream for serving
1. Put 1 tablespoon butter in a large deep skillet, preferably nonstick or cast iron, over medium heat and add the onion along with a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, then turns brown. This may take as long as half an hour. It’s okay if the onion gets a bit crisp on the edges, but lower the heat as necessary so it doesn’t cook too fast; basically you want a kind of onion compote.
2. Combine half the onion and the garlic, if you’re using it, with the mashed potatoes, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Set the remaining onions aside. There’s no need to wipe out the pan. Heat the oven to 200°F.
3. Lay a wrapper on a work surface and put 1 to 2 teaspoons of the stuffing in the center of it. Brush the edge of the wrapper with egg white. If you have cut circles, form half-moons; if you have cut squares, form triangles. Press the seam tightly to seal; it’s best if there is no air trapped between the stuffing and wrapper, so press down slightly. Set on a lightly floured plate or wax paper; don’t let the dumplings touch. (At this point, you may cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for a couple of weeks; no need to thaw — they’ll just take a couple extra minutes to cook.)
4. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Working in batches, in combination with the frying in Step 5, carefully boil the dumplings until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to the skillet.
5. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add as many boiled dumplings as will fit without crowding and brown them quickly, turning once or twice until the dough is tender, about 10 minutes total. When they are done, transfer them to an ovenproof plate and keep them warm in the oven. Cook the remaining dumplings, adding butter to the skillet as needed. When all are cooked, lower the heat a bit and reheat the reserved onions, then spread them out over the dumplings. Serve hot, passing sour cream at the table
Makes: About 50 wrappers
Time: 40 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1. WITH A FOOD PROCESSOR: Put the flour, salt and egg yolks in the bowl and add about 1/4 cup cold water gradually through the feed tube while the machine is running; if necessary, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a ball, then let the machine run for about 15 seconds. Finish the kneading by hand, using as much flour as necessary to keep it from sticking.
BY HAND: Put the flour, salt and egg yolks in a large bowl and gradually stir in about 1/4 cup cold water, adding more if necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, sprinkling with flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
2. Shape the dough into a ball, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let it rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours. (You can make the dough up to this point, wrap it tightly, and refrigerate for up to a day. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
3. Knead the ball for a minute, then cut into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 1-inch- wide log, then cut into 1-inch pieces and roll each one out from the center to form a 4-inch round or square, adding a bit more flour if necessary. Use immediately or dust with flour, stack, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for up to a couple of days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.
Whole Wheat Pierogi Wrappers
Use whole wheat flour for all or part of the white flour. You will need to add more water; do so a teaspoon at a time. And the dumplings will need to cook a minute or 2 longer.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 40 minutes
2 pounds starchy or all-purpose potatoes
1 cup milk or buttermilk, plus more if needed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Peel the potatoes before cooking if you like. If you’re in a hurry, halve or quarter larger ones. Cut or whole, the idea is to have all the pieces about the same size. Put them in a large, deep pot and cover with cold water. Add a large pinch salt and bring to a boil.
2. Keep the water rolling until the potatoes are done, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. The potatoes are done when a skewer or thin-bladed knife inserted into one meets almost no resistance. Drain the potatoes well and let them dry out a bit.
3. While the potatoes are draining, wipe the pot dry and put it back on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the milk and the butter and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. When the butter is almost melted, remove the pot from the heat. Rice the potatoes into the milk mixture, run them through a food mill set over the pot, or add them to the milk mixture and mash with a fork or potato masher. Return the pot to the heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon to reach the desired consistency, adding more milk if necessary. Taste, adjust the seasoning.