Put on a large pot of water to boil.
Meanwhile, take a small piece of dough and roll it on a floured board. Roll it to a moderate thinness. Cut out rounds. Place 1 Tbs filling into the center of a round, fold in half, and pinch ends to seal. Some tips:
- How thin? In the finished pierogi, the dough is going to have two textures: a crunchy exterior (from having been fried) and a soft interior (from having been boiled). If the dough is too thin, it will have only a crunchy texture. If it’s too thick, it will have both textures, but it will also have a heavy, doughy, pasty quality. You want to get the dough thin enough to avoid that heavy feel, while allowing for the two textures. This simply takes practice.
- When you’re finished rolling, typically the side of the dough facing down will feel more moist than the side that you’ve been rolling. Place the filling on the moist side, since that side will be easier to seal.
- Filling: Use a level, packed Tbs of filling, erring on the scant side. Trying to stuff more filling in will simply frustrate you, and produce inferior results. If you’re working with a malleable filling, place a Tbs of it the palm of your hand, and squeeze it into a ball. Squeeze a lot of balls and set them aside before rolling out the dough.
- Folding: The hardest thing about making pierogi is to avoid getting filling in the seal. Try this: place the filling on the center of a round. Grasp the round by its edges, with fingers 1 and 2 of both hands, each hand on opposite sides of the round. As you lift the round from the Silpat, stretch it, pulling your hands slowly and gently away from each other a little bit. Stretch it just enough to allow you to get the two bits of dough that are currently being pinched between your fingers and thumbs, to meet one another as you encase the filling, with no chance of getting any of the filling caught in the seal. (If your dough rips as you do this, you either pulled too far, or your dough is too thin.) Once you’ve got it, give that bit of dough a good pinch so that it will hold as you gently pull the edges near it away from the filling, so you can seal them as well. Next, go up and down the entire sealed edge, pressing it quite firmly with your thumb against the side of your 1st finger. Flip the pierogi over and press the edge again. Finally, if you’re fancy, you can braid the edge.
- Getting some of the filling stuck in the seal – even the smallest amount – will ruin your seal.
- To help make a tight seal, you can moisten the edges of the dough with water.
- Don’t use a fork to assist your seal. That makes the Pierogi look like empanadas, which will earn you a bitch slap from your Polish grandmother. The most common method is to give them a serious pinching, two or three times over, and leave it simply at that. That’s a classic. Or you can show off, like Jeff does in the video, above.
- Sometimes you just have to zhuzh the shit out of these little buggers to get’m to seal. If you just completely wreck one, getting filling all over it, and you realize there’s no way you’ll seal it, go ahead and try as best you can, and then encase it in another round of dough. I’ll be twice a thick as the others. So yes, it will have that heavy quality. But throwing it out would be sinful. It’ll still be good, just not perfect.
Gently drop your newly-formed Pierogi into a pot of boiling salted water. Pierogi will expand as they boil, so don’t overcrowd the pot. Instead, boil them in as many batches as necessary, according to the size of your pot. Gently stir so they do not stick to the bottom or lump together. Cook until they (or the majority of them) float to the top; then, continue cook 2-3 minutes longer. Boiling softens the dough; if you don’t boil them long enough, they’ll be tough instead of tender when served. Lift them out with slotted spoon (an Asian wonton strainer is perfect for this) onto platter. Note: they will stick to one another and to most surfaces. To prevent that, brush very lightly with melted butter and place them on a non-stick surface or waxed paper.
Some people prefer to eat boiled Pierogi. Others prefer to fry them after boiling. If you’re going to fry them right after boiling them, all you need is a quick sauté in butter, and your only aim is to brown them. If you’re frying pierogi that have been refrigerated after boiling, you need to cook them more slowly, because you’re reheating the interior as well as browning the exterior. As an option, you can bread Pierogi before frying them. I’ve read that this is unusual and done only when the filling is sweet – although some people claim exactly the opposite – but my grandmother used to bread all her Pierogi, regardless of the filling. To bread them, beat an egg with 1 Tbs milk in a shallow bowl. Set aside. Crush enough saltines to produce 2 cups of crumbs (or substitute unflavored bread crumbs). Place in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Toss Pierogi in the egg wash (or brush them with it), then dredge in crumbs. Then, fry as directed.
Regardless of how you prepare your Pierogi, serve with sour cream or melted butter. Pierogi go great with smoked kielbasa (miLam recommends Slotkowski brand) and rye or pumpernickel bread. Smoked kielbasa needs only to be heated through, although browning it is tasty. You can heat kielbasa and fry pierogi in the same pan, at the same time. A half-stick of kielbasa per person is plenty.
Boiled Pierogi freeze well. First, let them cool. Then, place them on a jelly roll pan and slide the pan into the freezer. Once the outer surface of the Pierogi has begun to freeze remove them from the jelly roll pan, place them in a freezer-appropriate container (or preferably, vacuum-seal them), and return them to the freezer. Thaw them in the fridge overnight, or place about ten of them in the microwave, and then tell your microwave that they’re 1.1 lbs of meat and that you want to defrost them.