Many holidays have special food associated with them. A lot of them have to do with the individual cultures and nationalities. This time of the year is a perfect example.
Potato pancakes (levivot or latkes) and jelly doughnuts (sufganiot) are popular during Hanukkah for Jewish people. Tamales are one of the favorites of those with roots in Mexico. And during Kwanzaa, okra, sesame seeds, black-eyed peas and peanuts can be found in a lot of dishes.
I started thinking about this after reading a story about some of the dishes that are popular during the Christmas season with people of Polish descent. One of the foods mentioned were pierogies, which some people might call a dumpling.
I remember my first encounter with pierogies. I’d only been living in Grand Forks for a couple of years at the time when a friend of a friend brought some homemade pierogies over to our house. They were very delicious.
I’ve sampled others since, but none came close to those made by Dave Knoop’s mother. I never did get the recipe, much to my dismay. But I’m sure it easily would have become a favorite in our home today had it been given to me.
While I don’t have that specific recipe, here’s another one that looks pretty good. I just might have to give it a try.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound fresh mushrooms, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon butter, softened
Make the filling. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté over medium-low heat until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon; cook remaining liquid until it reduces to 1 tablespoon.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. When butter melts, add onion and saute over medium heat until tender. Let cool, then stir in bread crumbs.
Stir onion mixture into mushrooms; season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the dough. Sift together flour and ½ teaspoon salt. Mound on a bread board, and make a well in the center.
Pour egg into the well; add softened butter. Pour about 1/3 cup water into the well. Using your hands, mix the wet ingredients into the flour, starting in the well and working outward. Continue adding water until a soft dough forms, then knead until smooth. Invert a large, clean bowl over the dough and let it rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Fill a large pot with at least 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, on a floured surface, roll out the dough as thinly as possible, preferably 1/16 inch or thinner. Cut out about six 3½- to 4-inch rounds. Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Place a generous tablespoon of filling in the center of each round of dough and spread to within ½ inch or less of the edges, leaving enough room to seal shut. Fold the dough over the filling to form a semicircle; crimp the edge closed with your fingers or a fork, making a tight seal. Continue with the remaining dough and filling, recombining and rerolling the dough as necessary.
Drop pierogi into boiling water, cooking in batches and being careful not to crowd the pot. Stir gently to prevent pierogi from sticking to the bottom or to each other. Return water to a boil and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Pierogi will usually rise to the surface when done. Gently remove from water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. (Do not leave on paper towels or pierogi will stick or tear.) Hold warm in a large ovenproof dish until all batches are finished.
Note: If desired, cooked pierogi can be browned in butter or oil over medium heat before serving.
Yield: 30 pierogies.
Approximate nutritional analysis per pierogi: 50 calories, 1.5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 0.5 grams sugar, 0.5 grams fiber, 45 milligrams sodium, 5 milligrams calcium.