It’s good to set up a kind of assembly line to make these home-style Polish pierogi, as author Elizabeth McNamara's family does before Christmas each year. Key techniques: Make sure the pierogi are completely sealed before they go into the pot of water. Dry them completely before storing. Don’t skimp on the black pepper, which accentuates the flavor of the cabbage.
McNamara's grandmother likes a cabbage-onion filling best, but the family makes potato filling and cheese filling as well. They serve the pierogis plain, after a quick saute and browning in butter.
Make Ahead: The cabbage filling can be refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The pierogi can be assembled (cooked but not sauteed), layered between waxed paper, placed in resealable plastic food storage bags and frozen for at least 6 months. Defrost before sauteing.
Servings: 15 - 20
- For the filling
- 1 1/2 to 2 heads green cabbage (outer leaves removed), cored, then finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 large or 4 medium white or yellow onions, cut into small dice (a generous 4 cups)
- 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
- For the dough
- 8 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
- 2 tablespoons salt, plus more for the cooking water
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup evaporated milk, combined with 2 cups warm water
- Corn oil, for the cooking water
- 6 to 8 tablespoons salted butter, for serving
For the filling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, add the cabbage and cook for about 10 minutes, until slightly opaque. Drain in a colander set in the sink, gently pressing to extract as much moisture as possible.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 25 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. Add the drained cabbage to the pot; cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage has wilted and mixed with the onions. If the onions seem dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Season with the salt and pepper, stirring to distribute evenly. Transfer to a large bowl to cool; the yield is about 10 cups.
For the dough: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; gradually add the eggs and the milk mixture and stir to form a soft dough. Once it comes together, knead the dough into a ball for a few minutes, until it becomes elastic and loses its stickiness.
Divide the dough into four equal portions. Line several baking sheets with wax paper. Lightly flour a work surface.
Working with one portion at a time, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Use an empty, clean tuna can or an old-fashioned glass with a diameter of 3 1/2 inches to cut out rounds of dough, placing them on the baking sheets as you work. Repeat to use all of the dough.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season generously with salt. Add a tablespoon or two of the oil to the water.
Meanwhile, gently stretch each round of dough to 4 inches in diameter, working around the edges. If you create thin spots that are see-through, or a tear, reroll to create new rounds of dough. (If thin spots or holes remain, the filling will burst through as the pierogis cook and make a mess in the pot.)
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cooled cabbage-onion filling onto the center of each 4-inch round of dough. Do not overfill. Hold the dough in one hand and use your other hand to pinch the edges of the dough together, forming half-moon pierogis. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork. Repeat to use all of the dough; if you have leftover filling, reserve (freeze) for another use.
Gently place 20 to 25 pierogi in the pot of water. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for 10 minutes, stirring to make sure no pierogi are sticking to the bottom of the pot. They should all be floating by the end of cooking. The pierogi should be slightly puffed and have a slight sheen.
Lay several clean dish towels on the counter.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pierogi to the towels to drain for 15 minutes. Turn them over and dry on the second side; if the pierogi haven’t cooled fast enough for you to cook them in the next step, you can rinse them under cool water, then dry them on the dish towels.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the salted butter on a griddle or in an electric skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add 6 to 8 of the cooled, dry pierogi. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly browned on the the bottom, then gently turn them over and cook until lightly browned on the second side. Repeat to cook as many of the remaining pierogi as you’d like, adding butter as needed.
Adapted from a recipe given to Lorrie Plamondon by Josephine K. McGough of New York Mills, N.Y.
Tested by Lorrie Plamondon, Anne Plamondon McNamara, Elizabeth McNamara and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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