Sunday, April 3, 2016

Monika's Inspired Polish Cheese and Potato Pierogi (makes about 100 dumplings)

pierogi--made using hand-roll (with rolling pin) pierogi skin
Monika was born and raised in Poland before she came to the United States at the age of 19. She attended nursing school in the United States. She and I met while working in a busy Emergency Department in a large Boston hospital. I left the ED in 2010 but she continue to work there. Although the job is quite stressful she loves being an ED nurse. Occasionally as Registered Nurses in the ED we sometimes float (or work in another area) to the Observation Unit where patients stay overnight to be monitored. The job there is often not as stressful or as busy as down in the main ED. I remember while working a night shift in Obs we got to talking about making pierogi--a Polish dumpling usually filled with various tasty ingredients. Monika makes her dumpling dough using just flour, room temperature water and an egg. She makes a well in her flour and then adds an egg inside. She would slowly work the flour into the egg and then add a little water until a soft dough is formed. Her filling consists of a combination of either cheese and potato (sometimes sauteed onions) or sauerkraut and mushrooms. She said the cheese has to be a special type known as farmer cheese. You may purchase this in a grocery store such as Market Basket (in the specialty cheese section) if you live in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. People use other cheese such as mozzarella but farmer cheese is the preferred. She seasoned the filling with just salt and a lot of pepper. She said she would never buy the frozen pierogi. She prefers to make her own from scratch and freeze them despite juggling a full schedule--wife, mother of 2 children (a 10 year old daughter and 8 year old son) and working full-time in the ED. She and her husband speak Polish with their children and keep many of their Polish foods, traditions and heritage alive. After making the pierogi, she boils them and lets them cool. Right before eating she sometimes fries them in a little oil and garnishes with a little sauteed onions. She emphasized that the onions must be cut into squares. Recently she and I were chatting online and this time I told her I am going to make pierogi and call it the Monika's Inspired Polish Pierogi. She laughed and said she looks forward to seeing my post. Thank you Monika for the inspiration and keep doing great work in the ED! We need more caring nurses like you in the field!

Monika's Inspired Polish Cheese and Potato Pierogi (makes about 100 dumplings)

pierogi dough
Pierogi Dough (enough for about 42 dumpling skin if hand-roll or about 60 if using a pasta maker)


2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup for dusting and for rolling out the dough
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
About 1/2 cup of lukewarm water


Sift the flour and salt together on a flat clean surface into a mound. Make a well in the center. Crack the egg inside the well. Take a fork and slowly work the flour into the egg. Slowly add water (a few drizzle at a time) until a dough is formed and there is no more flour left. Knead the dough until it is soft and pliable, about 10 minutes. Let the dough rest under a slightly wet towel for about 20-30 minutes.

*I boil the potatoes while I work on the dough. I let the dough rest while I make the filling. I use a cookie sheet to make the dough (put a moist towel under so the sheet does not slide around when you knead the dough). This way everything is contained and I have less to clean up later. For the dough I keep a cup of lukewarm water next to me but ended up using slightly less than 1/2 a cup. Each of my dumplings is 3-inch in diameter. I cover the rest of the dough that I am not currently using under a moist towel to prevent it from drying out. Do not discard any of the small pieces of leftover cut dough. Keep these pieces under the towel. They can be kneaded again and rolled out to form more dumpling skin. You may add a few drops of water if the dough appears to be getting hard or a little dry. Remember the dough should always be soft not hard. After making the dough a few times you may not even need a recipe!
*The first day I made only one batch and roll each dumpling skin out using a rolling pin. When I hand roll the dough the above recipe yields only 42 dumpling skin with about 1 teaspoon of dough leftover. The next day I made another batch and rolled the dough into sheets using a pasta maker. This process is easier, quicker and yields a lot more skin--61 thin dumpling skins with about a teaspoon of dough leftover. With the second batch I made a slight change by dissolving 1/2 teaspoon of salt in with a cup of lukewarm water. Again I used nearly 1/2 a cup for the dough and the rest was used to help wet the dumpling skin edges to help seal them. This time the skin edges were harder to seal since I used some of the flour to dust in between the skins to prevent them from sticking to one another.

cutting the rolled dough
pierogi skin
pierogi--made using a pasta maker to roll the pierogi skin
*When I was in Toronto I spoke to a Ukrainian-Canadian woman who was making the pierogi and she informed me her dough contains only flour and water, no eggs. Her freshly made pierogi were excellent without the eggs. So, if you have allergies to eggs or prefer not to eat them you can make the skin without them. You probably will use more water to form your dough.

Pierogi Cheese and Potato Filling (enough for about 100 dumplings)


2 lbs potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 lb farmer cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper


Gently boil the potatoes (partially covering the pot with a lid) for about 1/2 hour or until they are soft and fork tender. Use a fork to skewer into the center of the largest potato to test for doneness. When it is done the fork should easily go through the potato. Drain and let the potatoes cool before handling them. Peel them and put them in a large bowl. Use a fork to mash them. This way there will be small chunks of the potato. Slice the cheese and add them to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use a fork to mash and mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

*It's difficult to judge how many dumplings you will end up with when making the filling. I normally like to divide the filling into quarters and start with a quarter batch at a time. This way I get an idea of how many I can get per quarter batch.
*You may preform the dumplings by taking about a tablespoon of the filling and form an oval shape. Do this until all the filling is gone. Wrap the little dumpling filling in plastic and refrigerate if not using it right away. 
*This dumpling filling is not too salty. You may certainly adjust the saltiness according to your taste.

Sauteed Onion Garnish (enough for about 50 pierogi)


1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, peeled, cut into squares
1/4 tsp salt
1 small bunch of scallions (green parts only)


Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat. Add oil once once the pan is hot.
Add onions and salt. Saute until the onion is light golden color. Add scallions and turn off heat.

*Monika does not add the scallions to her sauteed onions. I like to add this for a little color. You may also use fresh chopped chives to garnish.
*This recipe is easily double.

uncooked pierogi
To Form the Pierogi, Boil & Fry Them

Roll out the dough as thin as you can. May dust a little flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Cut the rolled out dough into a round shape. I use a 3-inch metal disc to cut the dough. However, you can use anything that is round to cut. Put about a tablespoon of the filling in the middle of a cut disc. Close the dough by folding it in half and pressing firmly with your thumb and index finger at the center. Continue to press firmly to seal the edges while allowing the air to escape the sides. Gently boil (turn the heat down slightly if the water boils too hard) the filled pierogi until they float to the top. Let them continue to boil for about 1 to 2 more minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon. Fry them in a little oil (about a teaspoon) until they are slightly golden on each side. Serve with a dallop of plain sour cream and a little of the sauteed onion.

*On a recent trip to Toronto I noticed some of the places that serve pierogi add a dollop of plain sour cream on the side. My husband and I like the taste of the sour cream so I add it to my pierogi. You can eat the pierogi after boiling. However, I prefer them lightly fried. I used about a teaspoon of oil to fry 6 to 8 of them at a time. After I take the fried pierogi out of the pan I turn off the heat. I then return the pan to the stove, add a little of the Sauteed Onion Garnish into it and stir it around to reheat it before pouring it on top of the pierogi.

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