Bein’ Fat and Polish: Carb-Loaded Vegan Pierogi

Oh-gy Pierogi! Damn, it’s good to be Polish.

Why?

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.

Pyrohy

Mmmmm sweet, salty, doughy deliciousness. Even on your thighs.

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.

Paper bag pierogis

These are just the leftover dumplings; imagine row upon row of orgasmic pierogi here instead.

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
margarine
brown sugar
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
minced garlic
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)
lemon juice
onion powder

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.

vodkasobieski.com

commons.wikimedia.org

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St. Patrick’s Day Feast

Soaking before the heat

It’s St. Patrick’s Day once again. As we all know, St. Patty’s Day is a holiday for the drunk and brash, for those who know how to hold their liquor and pummel through a plate of cabbage. While this is, historically, a fairly accurate portrayal of St. Patrick’s Day (since fasting and drinking were lifted on this day even though it falls during Lent) this is not what the day has at its heart. St. Patrick is considered the foremost patron saint of Ireland; he spent much of his life teaching the pagan Irish about Christianity and died holding steadfast to his religion and its teachings. Once Christianity took its strong hold in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has been held as an official or unofficial holiday ever since. The first Irish St. Patrick’s Day parade was put together in 1931.

St. Patrick’s Day means something almost completely different in America. Though the shamrocks, the feasting, and the celebration are largely the same, the meaning of St. Patty’s Day is very different; since immigration to the US by the Irish was predominantly by Protestants, the holiday’s religious implications were all but forgotten, and St. Patty’s Day festivities were meant merely to honor Irish heritage. Americans, both Irish and non-Irish, have been holding St. Patrick’s Day parades since the late 1700’s. Mostly, though, we focus on the drinking part of the holiday.

It is the first St. Patrick’s Day that I am 21, and of legal age to be out and about, stumbling down the sidewalk like a drunken hooligan and throwing up in bushes. While this may sound like fun, I’m probably the patron saint of moderation when it comes to alcohol. Besides, we have some St. Patrick’s Day traditions of our own here. As I write, my partner is fixing me as good of an Irish breakfast as he can while we jam out to some Irish tunes on a podcast. Later on, we intend to put on our green and trek to Stewart’s, as all Eastern upstate New Yorkers know has 50 cent ice cream on St. Patty’s Day if you wear green. And our ultimate plan? Maybe go have a drink or two after we make some delicious corned beef! We have recently discovered the perfect way to cook corned beef: Guiness and brown sugar. And that’s it! Our secret is that we soak the corned beef for a day or two before we plan to eat it in plain ol’ water; this helps draw out some of the salt that cures the corned beef but is sometimes a bit too salty for our tastes. Enjoy!

Corned Beef and Vegetables
3 pounds corned beef
1 12 oz. can Guinness
1 cup brown sugar
Potatoes (limit to 5)
Carrots
Pinto beans
Sauerkraut

-Soak corned beef 24-48 hours to draw out the salt and make meat super tender.
-Place Guinness, brown sugar, and corned beef in 6 qt. crock pot liner and let marinate in refrigerator for about 4 hours.
-Preheat oven to 300 degrees, and cook corned beef for an 1 and 1/2 hours.
-Remove crock from the oven and add potatoes, carrots, and pinto beans. Add more water if desired, but it is not necessary. Place back in oven and cook for additional hour.
-Remove from oven and enjoy!!

Hint: Later on, I’m going to try to turn the sauce into a kind of “gravy” for the pinto beans by adding a little vinegar and flour to thicken it up. Then, the beans will be even more like baked beans (hopefully). I’ll post later about the experience!

We will munch on this delicious and hearty meal with a side of sauerkraut, a German addition but, alas, the only way I really like to eat cabbage (and this we both agree on). This week, we bought a loaf of rye bread to enjoy our leftover corned beef on. There is also a block of swiss cheese and the possibility of homemade thousand island dressing in the air, and as we clammer into the living room now to laugh at an Irish comedy, St. Patrick’s Day feels as though it is upon us.