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Monday, January 27, 2014

Pittsburgh Food

I must admit that, before I lived in Pittsburgh, I had never eaten a pierogi.  In fact, I had never actually given pierogis a moment's thought.  But then I moved to the 'burgh where pierogis are so popular that they're the Pittsburgh Pirates' mascots.

Let me introduce you to Cheese Chester, Jalapeño Hanna, Saurkraut Saul, and Oliver Onion.

Needless to say, the Pirates' Pierogis are much loved in these parts.  For a while, Kate was collecting Pierogi bauble heads.  Thankfully, she finally got all four and they are now happily residing amongst all the other crap in her bedroom that she just had to have but will probably never look at again.

But I digress.  Pierogis (the ones you can actually eat) are very popular here in Pittsburgh.  In fact, you can purchase them from old ladies who make them in church basements.  You can buy them fresh.  You can buy them frozen.  You can order them in restaurants, and at PNC Park.  Pierogis are like the national food of Pittsburgh.

Having never really given much thought to pierogis, I obviously had never made them.  But then something happened.  Food 52.com featured a recipe for said pierogis and I felt that it was my civic duty to give them a try.

I am going to start by saying that making pierogis was perhaps the most labor intensive thing I have ever done, and that pretty much includes going through actual labor.  You have to make the dough.  Then the dough is refrigerated.  You have to make the filling.  Then the dough has to be rolled, cut, and filled (times 50).  Then the final product is either sautéed or boiled.  Then, and only then, are they ready to eat.

Here's the thing.  These pierogis were actually quite tasty.  Were they as good as the frozen ones?  I like to think they were better.  Were they as good as the ones made by the old women in church basements?  Probably not.  They're the professionals.  I'm just a neophyte, but maybe if I make pierogis 500 more times, mine will be just as good.  Until then, I have about 40 in the freezer waiting to be sautéed or boiled.

Recipe:  Potato, Mushroom, & Caramelized Onion Pierogi
(Food 52.com)


For the Pierogi Dough
2 cups full fat plain or Greek yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour + more for kneading
Beat the yogurt, the egg and the salt together with an electric beater on low until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the flour, beating until smooth. The dough will be very sticky. 
Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured work surface and knead in enough flour until the dough is smooth and workable (can be rolled out and cut). It will be tacky but not so sticky that it runs all over the work surface and sticks to your hands in a major way. 
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to firm up.  
 For the Potato, Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Pierogi Filling:
yellow onions, chopped
pound white mushrooms, trimmed and finely diced
3/4 pounds potatoes for mashing
4 - 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sour cream or Full-fat or Greek yogurt for serving
Chop the onions. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions until caramelized a deep brown, caramelized but not burned. Remove from the skillet and set aside. 
In the same skillet, melt another 2 tablespoons of butter and add the chopped mushrooms. Salt and pepper the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender and all the liquid exuded by the mushrooms has evaporated, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. 
While you are cooking the onions and mushrooms, peel and quarter the potato(es) and place in a small pot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until soft and mashable, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. 
If you want the filling a bit richer, melt the extra 2 tablespoons of butter and add to the potatoes. Mash and whip the potatoes until smooth and fluffy. Fold in the cooked mushrooms and the caramelized onions until well blended. Salt and pepper again to taste. 
Take the dough out of the fridge and work with half at a time. The other half keep in the fridge. 
Keeping both your work surface and the surface of the dough well floured, gently roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch (1/2 cm), gently lifting it up to flour underneath and turn. Keeping your hands floured also helps. 
Using a 3-inch (7 ½ cm) round cookie cutter (they can be made larger if you like) carefully cut out circles, trying not to deform the circles of dough too much, although this dough is easy to work with and “correctable”. I lifted up the circles, 2 or 3 at a time, and made sure they were on a floured section of the table before trying to fill and fold. With floured fingertips, I tapped each circle a bit to stretch out the circle. Place a mounded teaspoon of filling just off of the center of each round of dough. 
Now, gently pull the wider half over the mound of filling and place the side edge-to-edge with the side with the dough. With the edges matching/meeting, just press with the side of your floured index finger, pulling the dough and pressing to seal. The edge should be a bit less than a finger’s-width. This will also keep the edge from being too thick. Be very careful not to rip the dough covering the filling. 
As you form the pieorgi, 1, 2 or at the most 3 at a time, place them on a floured or lined and floured plate or baking sheet until you are ready to cook. 
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, lower a bit to a healthy simmer and drop in the pieorgi just 6 or 7 at a time (they shouldn’t crowd or overlap in the pan). Allow to cook for 6 to 7 minutes. They should float to the top and, when lifted out with a slotted spoon, should look puffy. Cook the rest in batches. Place on towels to drain. 
To fry, simply heat olive oil or a mixture of butter and olive oil in a skillet and fry the pierogi for a few minutes per side, in batches, again, not overcrowding. They should be golden on each side. 
Serve hot with extra yogurt for dipping.

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