Pierogi. Pierogie. Perogi. Pyrogi. Pyrohi. Doesn’t matter how you spell it, this staple of European cuisine satisfies hunger in a way few other dumplings can. What is it about the wondrous pierogi that makes it such a favorite? Could it be the thin dough, crispy and golden when fried? Could it be the filling, flavorful and bold against the neutral flavor of the dough? Could it be the handiness of the little savory pocket, or how easy they are to make, with cheap, accessible ingredients and easy preparation?
Given the cultural demographics of Pittsburgh, the pierogi is a staple of this city’s cuisine. Spend enough time on Urbanspoon, and you’ll find users more than ready to complain about this fact. Their point is not entirely ill-informed, but I think it comes from a place of overexposure, rather than a straight forward dislike of the dish itself. I don’t know the actual statistics, but I’d wager a bet that the majority of local restaurants ( those of unspecified ethnic cuisine, of course) offer pierogi. But don’t go judging a dish by its commonly mediocre preparation. Having pierogi on your menu because you’re expected to doesn’t exactly yield the best tasting versions. Many places are serving the same tired, frozen versions that you can buy in the supermarket. This is pierogi, sort of, but it’s about as satisfying as any frozen food can be.
What I say to these pierogi naysayers is to not hate on a dish until you’ve had it properly served to you, meaning homemade, either from some restaurant’s own kitchen or someone’s own home. Take a recommendation from those who LOVE the pierogi before ordering it at a random restaurant. Some good places to start:
- S&D Polish Deli
- Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
- Rosie’s Pierogies
- Gosia’s Pierogies (available at several locations, including the Pittsburgh Public Market)
- St. John the Baptist Ukranian Catholic Church (they sell traditional Ukranian pyrohy starting in Fall and going until around the end of May)
Or you could eat some quality pierogi by getting into the action yourself. Making pierogi is easy, even if you have never made dumplings before. The dough can be kind of dry, making it tricky to knead and spread out the dough circles. I’ve been able to keep it workable by keeping my fingers wet. You want them to be damp enough to keep the dough from drying out, but not so wet as to make the dough slimy.
One of the best things about pierogi is how easy they are to make vegan. The dough itself can be made with butter, shortening, etc, but is usually best when it is made with simple vegetable oil. The filling is really up to the maker. For my Saturday evening vegan pierogi, I went with an easy potato and onion filling, that yielded far more than I needed. Darn, looks like I’m going to have to make another batch….
Everybody Polka for Some
Simple Vegan Pierogi!
Ingredients for filling:
- 2 medium potatoes, chopped (I used two larger than my fist and ended up with way more potato than I needed. So about fist sized should do it.)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tsp garlic-pepper seasoning
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp vegan margarine (I actually forgot to add this and the filling was still delicious, so it is optional)
- 1/2 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk
Ingredients for dough:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup water (and extra on hand, as needed)
- 1 1/2 tsp oil
- For the filling: Boil the potatoes until tender. While potatoes are boiling, saute the onions until translucent, then set aside. Drain the water, add the onions (with the leftover oil), seasonings, margarine, and “milk” to the potatoes, and whip everything until smooth. You want to get it nice and creamy, so try to work out all the big lumps.
- For the dough: Stir together flour, water, and oil until you get a workable dough. Knead for about three minutes, keeping your fingers wet to keep the dough from drying out. Divide the dough into eight equal chunks.
- Assemble your pierogi: For each of the eight chunks of dough, roll into a ball and then flatten into a disk. The dough should be spread thin but sturdy enough to maintain without ripping. Take about tablespoon of the filling and place it into the center of the dough. Fold and pinch closed, then using the tines of a fork, seal the sides of the pierogi. Set each one aside until you have all completed.
- Cook your pierogi: Boil a pot of water, then add the pierogi. Boil for about five minutes, or until each pierogi floats to the surface of the water. Scoop out and gently dry, then either freeze them for later use or cook them, either by frying (as I generally do, cause I love me some fresh fried pierogi) or baking in the oven.
Serve with vegan sour cream, a little smoked paprika, and fried onions, if desired. I know that’s how I like ‘em.
(Recipe adapted from this recipe on Vegweb.com)