(Loosely adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/07/from-insert-your-origin-here-with-love/)
These little babies were a win at Thanksgiving dinner this year with the Shums. I am including the recipe below, generously adapted from smitten kitchen’s quick potato pierogi recipe. I’ve never been much in favor of measurements but I will include some for your reference. If you are feeding 4-5 people (mind you, who aren’t food monsters) you might want to have a pound of potatoes on hand. Otherwise, my advice is cook and mash as much as you want or have and adjust everything else according to taste. Also, any carby root will do. We have tried the recipe with yams and ended up with excellent and very tasty results. I imagine they would taste excellent with cassava filling as well.
potatoes (about a pound) peeled/unpeeled and chopped into quarters
onions, diced (2 large onions or 3-4 small ones, depending on how much onion flavor you want)
garlic, minced (just 1 or 2 for a wee bit of flavor)
scallions (a bunch)
butter (have a package on hand. You want to add enough into the filling so it’s creamy and not too dry)
Dumpling Wrappers! (Make sure they are fresh or else the skins may be too dry, thus leading to broken pierogis when you try to cook them)
Making the filling:
Boil the quartered potatoes until tender. Drain, mash and then set aside for later. Heat butter in pan and sautee the onions and the garlic over medium heat until caramelized (they will aquire a deliciously brown color to them). Caramelization may be facilitated with the addition of a wee bit of syrup/honey (a drop or two) or brown sugar ( a small pinch). A little salt and pepper may be added at this stage in the game to bring out the onion flavor in the filling. When the onions have caramelized, turn to low heat and add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the mashed potatoes to the pan and thoroughly mix until onions and potatoes are well-combined. Throughout this step, add butter as needed to prevent the filling from drying out and also add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off flame and transfer the filling to a bowl. Mix in some chopped scallions and set aside for about 10-15 minutes to allow it to cool.
Wrapping the pierogis:
Wrapping pierogis and dumplings for that matter, is a communal activity. So, first things first, gather all ye friends and family round a circular table (though if a square table is all you have, it’ll have to do). Have on hand a tray lined with wax paper on which to place finished pierogis, some plastic wrap, a small bowl of water and several teaspoons. Unwrap the package of dumpling skins but take care to keep a layer of plastic wrap over the stack throughout the process or the air will dry out the skins very quickly.
Place a wrapper in the palm of your slightly cupped hand (this should form a little indentation). Dip the tip of your pointer finger into the water, and dab a border of water around the edges of the wrapper (about a finger’s width). Then, scoop a spoonful of filling and place it in the center of the wrapper where the indentation is. Now for the hard part.
The following will require some ninja skills depending on how you want to seal the dumpling/pierogi.
A simple pierogi only requires that you fold the wrap in half over the filling and pinch the sides tightly shut. Make sure that you have pushed out any air trapped inside before sealing the pierogi completely. Otherwise, it will puff up during the boiling process.
A dumpling or Asian pierogi has many a variation. Variation 1: bring one side to the other but only pinch together at very top (It’ll sit like a taco in the palm of your hand). Then, make small pleats on the side facing you and and pinch them shut, effectively sealing the dumpling. My inability to describe this articulately requires that I include visuals. Luckily, there is Saveur.
Once you have mastered this variation, feel free to try out different shapes. As long as you make sure the dumplings are sealed tightly shut and there are no air pockets trapped inside with the filling, you are golden. Place them on the tray and make sure you don’t place them close together or they will stick. Keep a layer of plastic wrap over the finished ones to prevent them from drying out.
Once you have amassed a good tray of dumplings/pierogis, get a pot of boiling water going (filled to about 2/3 the way up). Place the finished pierogis into the pot of boiling water. Let it come to a boil and then pour in about a cup of water. Repeat this a few more times until the skins have turned translucent. Beware of puffy pierogis. This is an indication that you have overcooked them and they will be soggy. Scoop out the cooked pierogis into a colander and quickly run them through cold water so they don’t stick.
Serve them with caramelized onions, sour cream, homemade cranberry sauce or apple sauce. You can make them ahead of time and keep them warm in the oven until it is time to serve.