Epic Potato Pierogi with Fried Onions
Makes 3 dozen
Epic in how pierogi, those tender pasta pouches stuffed with potato have worked their way well beyond their Polish roots into the hearts of Americas everywhere. I was raised on pierogi, made by my aunt for every holiday feast, stuffed with a basic potato mixture, but in NYC I grew to love them stuffed with a rainbow of fillings; a blend of saurkraut mushroom perhaps coming in second.
For my potato pierogi I like yellow-fleshed potatoes like Yukon Gold to add a little bit of color to an otherwise pale filling; a touch of celeriac adds further depth, but if you prefer go all-potato as it’s always a crowd pleaser. While the steps may seem a little bit lengthy compared to most recipes, pieogi are typically a miracle of how such basic ingredients can transform into something so completely satisfying.
As with any dumpling, the wheat dough needs to rest for at least an hour to allow the gluten to relax and allow for smooth, supple rolling for thin wrappers. My aunt, a master pierogi chef if there ever was one likes to use a pasta rolling machine to produce perfectly smooth, uniform dough in mass quantities for major pierogi making events. While you’re at it, pull out all the stops and make double, triple or more of a batch and freeze them for fast weeknight meals. Another tip from my aunt: your pierogi don’t have to be round; she cuts squares from the neat rolls of dough for less waste. This recipe features traditional round pierogi, but if you desire to experiment with square pierogi slice squares about 3 to 4 inches wide, fill and fold over the dough.
Tip: For a really fluffy, creamy potato filling use an old fashioned potato ricer. It’s a kitchen gadget that helpfully presses cooked potato through a fine sieve for fluffy strands that whip up into perfectly smooth mashed potatoes.
Tip: Stir 1/4 cup of the fried onions into the potato filling for extra sweet onion pizzaz
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons melted nonhydrogenated margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds yellow potato such as Yukon Gold
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped dill
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Big pinch ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 pound yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine
½ teaspoon salt
1. Make the dough at least an hour before assembling the pieogi. In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt and form a well in the center. Add the water and margarine and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir to form a soft ragged dough. Now either knead the dough in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface until smooth, adding a little bit of flour or water to adjust for any dry/sticky dough issues. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit on the kitchen counter for an hour, or chill over night, letting it warm to room temperature before proceeding.
2. Meanwhile prepare the fried onions and the filling. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a cast iron skillet and fry the diced onions, stirring occasionally, for 12-16 minutes until deep golden brown and juicy. Remove from heat, pour into a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap. Boil the potato in 2 quarts of cold water over high heat for 20 minutes or until very tender; reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain away the rest and let the potatoes cool. Mash the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of cooking water, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and nutritional yeast with a potato masher until creamy; taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if desired. If the mixture seems very dry add the remaining cooking liquid.
3. When you’re ready to assemble and cook the pierogies, fill the largest pot you have with 4 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring it to boil over high heat. Meanwhile divide the dough into four pieces. Keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a thin circle about 10-12 inches wide. Use a 3 inch wide round cookie cutter to cut out circles; remove the dough scraps and cover with plastic wrap. You can re-roll the dough scraps one more time by allowing them to rest at least 15 minutes.
4. To form a pierogi, take a dough round and scoop a level 1 tablespoon of filling into the center. Gently stretch and pull the dough over the filling to form a half circle and firmly pinch the edges together. I find it helps to gently press down the filling a few times to help shape a neat half circle pierogi. Take care to pinch the edges together very firmly and get a very tight seal or the pierogi may fall apart during the boil. Continue to shape more pierogi, laying them on a lightly floured surface and avoid overlapping them or they may stick together. Carefully drop pierogi into boiling water, 4-6 at a time and cook for 3-4 minutes. Cooked pieogi will float to the top; if they stick to the bottom carefully nudge them free with a spoon. Use a slotted spoon to lift pieogi into a lightly oiled casserole; keep it covered to keep pierogi warm as you cook the rest.
5. Serve warm pierogi topped with fried onions and a side of apple sauce and if desired vegan sour cream. I’ve also taken to serving them with tiny dish of prepared horseradish (look for this simple sauce of grated horseradish, vinegar and salt in the refrigerated section).
Cooked pierogi can also be pan fried in a little bit of margarine or oil over medium heat; fry for 4-5 minutes until the filling is hot and the outside is crisp in spots and golden.
If you’re serving a big portion of pierogi at a potluck, an easy way to do so is to layer boiled dumplings in a casserole dish and drizzle a little melted margarine between each layer, or coat the pierogi with the onion mixture before packing into the casserole dish.
Other fillings and variations:
My other favorite savory filling. Make double the dough, a batch of this filling in addition to the potato filling, and prepare two kinds!
2 cups drained saurkraut
8 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Squeeze the saurkraut to remove any excess moisture. Wipe the mushrooms clean, finely dice and saute in the oil along with the onions over medium high heat until browned and reduced in bulk, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add saurkraut and pepper and stir well to combine everything. Turn off the heat and let mixture cool to room temperature before filling pierogi.
Potato Celeriac Filling
I love the sweet flavor and bouncy texture celeriac lends to mashed potato. Replace 1/2 pound of potato with peeled, diced celeriac and boil with the diced potato.
Spinach Dill Filling
Spinach and potato double team for another irresistible pierogi filling. Steam and let cool 4 cups spinach leaves, then firmly squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Finely chop the spinach and stir into the potato filling along with 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill.
Roasted Garlic & Horseradish
Sneak in 3 tablespoons mashed roasted garlic and 1-2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish into the potato filling for flavorful, zesty potato pierogi.
Like any other dumpling or spring roll, pierogi are great made in huge batches and frozen for later. Lay a single layer of pierogi on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and freeze solid, then pack in tighly sealed zip lock bags. When you’re ready to cook them, don’t defrost; lower pierogi into boiling salted water and cook until tender and the filling is hot.