I had a wonderfully scheduled day off last Friday with my mom, Krystyna. We were going to head out to St. Andrew’s, MB for a fresh Christmas tree and make pierogi. We were even going to make uszka (dumplings filled with mushrooms) for barszcz (borscht) if time allowed.
Alas, the stomach flu struck me down! My mom went ahead as planned and made the perogies, and was kind enough to take photos for me.
Everyone who grew up in a Polish (or Ukrainian, etc.) family thinks their mother’s or their grandmother’s pierogi take the cake. And I’m no different: my mom’s pierogi are the best. Just the right amount of cheese and onion filling, and a flawlessly soft, perfect dough. Every single time. THE BEST.
Pierogi have always been part of our family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal.While we’ve switched up the type of filling on other days (cottage cheese, blueberries, mushrooms), our go to for the 24th is the ever classic potato and cheese.
Since we make and freeze the pierogi (laid flat!) ahead of time, all we do to prepare them for Christmas Eve dinner is thaw, carefully toss in melted butter and sautéed onion, and keep in a warmed oven until the rest of dinner is ready. (Note: Tossing in melted butter is what prevents them from sticking together.)
Now let’s get to that perfect dough recipe, shall we? (And I do mean perfect – this recipe has been around since the late 70’s!)
6 cups unbleached flour (plus more in case dough get sticky when working it)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Canola oil
2 cups hot tap water
Mix dry ingredients together and then add egg and oil. Add water slowly, while mixing with your hands. Yes, HANDS! Get down, folks. Add more flour if necessary; make sure dough is not sticky. Keep kneading until soft. Roll out to about 2-3 cm thin on floured surface. To cut out, use a circular cookie cutter or glass.
Krystyna’s Traditional Potato & Cheese Filling
I inherited my off the cuff style of cooking from my mom. While I can’t type out an exact measurement for the potatoes, here is a general guideline for her tasty filling:
A large pot full of mashing potatoes*, peeled and boiled
1 cup (maybe a bit more) of shredded cheddar cheese
1 yellow onion, diced and sautéed until very soft
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add cheddar and onion to boiled, drained potatoes. Mash. Add a bit of butter if you wish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mash until smooth.
*Try to find mashing potatoes, if you can. (It will state this on the bag.) If you’re not able to, then grab Yukon gold potatoes. Veer away from red skinned potatoes, as they are not moist enough.