Pierogi are similar to the Italian pastas I am very familiar with making, and yet oh-so-different. Stylistically, the dough is more like a hybrid between biscuit and pasta dough, for one thing. With typical tagliatelle, ravioli, lasagna, etc, the dough benefits from extreme manipulation. Biscuit dough (and similarly pie crust), on the other hand, should be touched as minimally as possible in order to ensure an airy texture. Pierogi dough falls into the latter category in that its texture is better if it’s handled as little as possible, and yet you still have to roll it down to about an eighth of an inch thickness in order to cut rounds in order to form the individual pierog. Yes, you heard me right, singularly they are pierog, and plural they are pierogi. Yes, you’ve undoubtedly heard American bastardizations including but not limited to perogis, perogies, perogy, pirohi, piroghi et cetera, but the accepted and accurate pluralization and spelling is pierogi. I’m not sure why I’m going all soapbox on this word- it’s not as though I’m any kind of expert either by birth or experience, I just find it interesting I guess.
Anyway, in my effort to conquer the world of pasta I’ve decided to branch out beyond the land of Italia which I know and love so well into other areas with rich traditions of unleavened dough. I’ve always admired the standard pierogi in all its cheesy potato glory, though I can’t exactly be trusted to leave well enough alone. Luckily this time the resulting pierogi were unimaginably spectacular, but traditionalists, you’d best turn back now. Those of you who have read this blog for any amount of time know that I have an (un)healthy obsession with eggs. I also happen to love tucking them inside dough. Pierogi and eggs are downright meant for one another, though the dumplings are small enough that the eggs must be of the quail variety. I also decided some shaved raw asparagus would spruce things up a bit and help remind me that it is springtime, after all. It was a good call.
This recipe makes 12 pierogi. The basic pierogi protocal is make the dough, make the filling, assemble, boil and finally fry. The first thing to do is caramelize an onion by slicing it and putting it into a lidded dutch oven along with some butter. Slide it into a 400° oven and don’t fuss with it for an hour. You can make the dough and soften the potatoes however you see fit (I sous vide them) in the interim. Once the onion has spent an hour sweating all its troubles away, transfer it to the stovetop and remove the lid. Deglaze the pot with a generous splash of vermouth and scrape up all the fond that has developed. Evaporate the vermouth, stir it all together and you have your caramelized onion.
Next, make the dough by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl, kneading until it comes together, then allow to rest in plastic wrap while you prepare the filling. Here are the dough ingredients:
- 2 c flour
- ¾ c sour cream
- 1 duck egg
- 3 tbsp softened butter
- ½ tsp salt
While your dough is resting, combine the cooked potatoes with the filling ingredients (except the quail eggs, salt and pepper) in a food processor and process until smooth. Here are the filling ingredients:
- ½ lb Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 c cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp caramelized onion (or more, to taste)
- ¼ c sour cream
- 1 quail egg yolk per pierogi (in this case 12)
- Salt and pepper to taste
At this point remove the quail eggs from the refrigerator and set a large pot of water to boil. Divide the dough in thirds and roll the first third out on a floured surface into a rectangle about 4” wide and 1/8” thick. Using a large cookie cutter or glass (3-4” diameter), cut four rounds out of the first rectangle. You will be making 12 rounds total. Drop a tablespoon of filling on each round and make a hole big enough for the quail egg yolk in the filling using your index fingers. Brush each pierog with egg wash to make sealing easier. Crack egg yolks into each pierogi (it’s ok if some white goes too- it helps bind the pierog) and seal by folding one side of the pierog over the other. Crimping is optional, but if you want to do it you can do it with the tines of a fork. In order to ensure even crimping, always place the first tine of the fork in the last indentation you made, like this:
Repeat this process with the remaining dough and move each batch to rest on a sheetpan lined with parchment paper.
Once you are finished filling your pierogi, boil in batches of four in lightly salted water for four minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Meanwhile, shave several stalks of asparagus and leave the shavings in lemon water to tenderize. Fry the pierogi in butter along with more of the caramelized onion on both sides until they lightly brown. Serve with sour cream and shavings of raw asparagus.