Feature

Recipe of the week: The taste of tradition: How to make perfect pierogi

At Tom Birchard’s­ Ukrainian restaurant in New York’s East Village, pierogi-makers stuff and pinch roughly 3,000 pierogis a day.

Every dish at Veselka, Tom Birchard’s­ Ukrainian restaurant in New York’s East Village, has a story behind it. Because of Ukraine’s harsh climate, Birchard writes in The Veselka Cookbook (Thomas Dunne), cooks turned to “inexpensive, belly-filling food that warms and comforts.”

Pierogi—known in Ukraine as varenyky—are among the country’s traditional staples. At Veselka, four “nimble-fingered” pierogi-makers stuff and pinch roughly 3,000 a day with a range of fillings, from traditional potato and cheese to fashionable goat cheese and arugula. This recipe makes considerably fewer—only 65 to 70.

Recipe of the week
Potato Pierogi

Pierogi wrappers
1 large egg yolk
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3¼ cups all-purpose flour

Topping and filling
4 tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups finely chopped onions
4 cups mashed potatoes
4 oz farmer’s cheese
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

To assemble
2 large egg whites
All-purpose flour as needed   

For wrappers, combine yolk, milk, ½ cup water, and oil; whip with a fork for 1 minute. Place flour in large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients, about one-third at a time, using fingers or a fork to incorporate between additions.

Once added, fold dough together. If it seems too sticky, add flour, about 1 tsp at a time to avoid making it too dry. Transfer dough to lightly floured board and knead for 3 minutes. Again, add small amounts of flour if the dough is too sticky to knead. When dough is smooth, form into a ball, transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 20 minutes.

While dough chills, prepare topping and filling. Melt butter in large skillet, add onions, and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine ¾ cup of the cooked onions, mashed potatoes, farmer’s cheese, salt, and pepper. Set aside at room temperature. Save remaining onions for topping. To assemble, combine egg whites with 2 tbsp water in a bowl and set to the side. You’ll also need a pastry brush, rolling pin, spoon, fork, and round cookie cutter about 2¾ inches in diameter (a jar lid or juice glass works).

Divide dough into 3 sections. Place a section on a well-floured work surface; roll out to 1⁄16-inch and cut circles with the cookie cutter. Place heaping tsp of filling in the center of each circle, leaving an empty margin. Brush some of the egg white mixture on half of the outer edge of the circle, and fold dough into a half-moon shape. Crimp edges with fingers or small fork. Transfer to floured platter. Do not stack. Repeat rolling and stuffing.

Bring large stockpot of salted water to rolling boil. Using a slotted spoon, lower 3 or 4 pierogi into water, and cook 4 minutes. Remove, drain, and transfer to a serving platter. Return water to full boil and repeat. Serve with remaining sautéed onions and sour cream. Freeze any extra for later.

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