Oh-gy Pierogi! Damn, it’s good to be Polish.
Because although, yes, Italians have gnocchi and tortellini, and Americans have chicken dumplings or whatever, and Asian cultures have steamed buns and such, there is just not a good comparison between the joys of eating one of those definitely delicious foods and the mind-blowing physical experience of a perfectly pressed and presented pierogi.
For those of you who may not be familiar with these Polish staples, pierogi are made by letting rise a simple dough, stuffing with any number of ingredients, pressing around the stuffing, and then boiling the dumplings to cook. The best way to enjoy them? Sauteed in the skillet, with some butter, margarine, or oil all up in there to get it snuggled and crisped. Oh, it’s perfection when you get a springy dough, a moist and plump middle, and a bit of crunch on your exterior that’s also a little salty on the tongue. And, of course, you gotta finish it off with a good sauce. Old schoolers will tell you a pyrohy is nothing without sour cream, and while I am inclined to agree, our diet is not. So, here, in addition to providing you with the recipe I used, which is done in the traditional eggless way, I also present you with two different (vegan) fillings I came up with and a fricking fabulous sauce that is creamy, tangy, and utilizes one can’t-live-without ingredient for most Poles (you know, besides sour cream): a good horseradish.
I used the dough recipe from Tasting Poland with MUCH success; the dough was smooth, easy to work with, not too sticky, and yielded very springy, firm pierogi when boiled – which, from my experience eating and making pierogi, is exactly what you’re looking for. Once the pierogi are properly stuffed and pressed into dumplings, drop them into boiling water and allow them to float to the top, stirring frequently enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, sides of the saucepan, their pierogi friends…pretty much anything. They’re sticky while they boil! Once they float, boil them an additional 3-5 minutes, testing them for firmness, doneness, and a touch of spring when you gently push them. Imagine that they should resemble the Pillsbury dough boy in “pushback” when given a gentle but solid poke. Don’t be afraid to burn your finger.
Note: I used 100% whole wheat flour both times I made this dough and only found that I needed to add a bit more water and a bit more rising time, but that is typical of any baking or cooking done with whole wheat flour when a recipe doesn’t necessarily call for it. Expect approx. 1/4-1/2 c. extra water per batch, and about 5-10 extra min. of rising time.
Here’s a great reason to ask for paper instead of plastic if you forget your reusable bags at the grocery store (or if you like to walk to the liquor store and need something opaque for your return journey): you can use them to drain all that extra fluid from your freshly boiled pierogis lest you decide to throw them in all wet and end up with tiny burning droplets of oily liquid sun fire reigning down on you like arrows in a scene from 300. ‘Cause that happens. So, you’ll drain the boiled pierogis for a few minutes at least, then saute them on medium to medium-high heat in your fat of choice until they are your desired brown. We love Canoleo Soft Margarine because it’s vegan and genuinely tastes like salted butter, but is both not butter and not made from 100% canola oil like many other margarines. However, olive oil for savory pierogis, grapeseed oil for either savory or sweet pierogis, your favorite vegan margarine, or whatever oil/fat you please depending on your existent or non-existent dietary preferences should work just fine. I can’t recommend grapeseed oil enough for something new to try once in a while; it has a high flash point, neutral taste, and a lot of purported health benefits, including its high level of omega-6 fatty acids.
Sweet Filling: Apple-Cran
3 medium peeled apples, diced
~1/4 c. dried cranberries
a bit of lemon juice
fresh ground nutmeg
Simmer the ingredients (most of them to taste) on medium-low heat until the mixture begins to get sweaty and juicy, about 20-30 minutes. The lemon juice will keep the fruit from browning due to air exposure, and cuts through some of the sweetness. Fill your pierogis carefully, trying hard not to get any fruit juice on the outer portion of the dough where you will be pressing the dumplings closed. These were very good plain and with vegan sour cream.
Filling 2: A New Spin on Tradition in Potato and Onion
about 5 large red potatoes, cubed
about 3 stalks of green onion, diced very small
a little olive oil
salt, pepper, and basil or parsley to taste
optional: tofu, Boca veggie crumbles, or seitan
For this filling, boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Drain into a strainer, rinse in very cold water, and then mash by hand in a large bowl. Mix in other ingredients (again, most of them to taste, but go easy on the oil) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors get acquainted. Stuff the pierogis, boil, saute, and eat with this awesome sauce:
Saucin’ the Supper: Vegan Creamy Horseradish Sauce
1 ramekin of vegan mayonnaise (we use Grapeseed Vegenaise)
good horseradish (we buy ours at the Broadway Market in Historic Polonia, so we know it’s good)
Mix the ingredients until you get just enough kick from the horseradish, and an acceptable consistency from the lemon juice (you could also use apple cider or white vinegar). You won’t want to leave out a bit of onion flavor from the onion powder, or, if you like onions more than I do, you can add some diced green onion to the sauce and enjoy. If eating with people who are unsure about the enjoyment they may derive from horseradish, put the ingredients on the table and have a make-your-own-sauce party. Personally, I add at least 2 tbsp. of horseradish to every 1/4 or 1/3 cup of Vegenaise. I love the slight kick in the back of the nose and the slightly sweet taste of tart vinegar and root that every childhood family get-together was punctuated with in the presence of my Polish grandfather.
Moral of the story? Vegans can still get their Polish on. So next year, when you go out to buy your pussy willows and squirt guns for Dyngus Day, make sure you stock up on more than just Sobieski so you can enjoy these delicious pyrohy.