I wanted to take a minute to share with you a quick story from “behind the scenes” on the antics that show up in the blog. I recently showed you all how we go about planning our menu and meals. Usually, 90% or so of the meals are tried and true staples. Much of our cooking is by feel and availability of ingredients so recipes are more of a suggestion than a specific set of instructions. But I also sprinkle in new recipes-both to expand our culinary palettes and to learn/teach new skills. Last week I planned the menu. I put a new homemade recipe on the board: pierogis. I planned to make them on Tuesday-a day I am usually in charge of the dinner meal prep due to schedules. Last Tuesday, it snowed, I needed to shovel, the kids needed extra help with school work, and I needed to get an 11 mile run in on the treadmill. Tuesday’s dinner plan got swapped for another night later in the week, that night something else came up and we used up some leftovers. This should have been a sign. But in reality it just meant pierogis became available for Rayleigh as a meal option for THIS week.
Now if you aren’t from central Pennsylvania you might not have ever had or even heard of a pierogi. It is a polish dish and generically they are a small dumpling. We (Americans) know them best for the potato/onion/cheese filled variety, but lots of filling options are available including a sweet version that’s sort of like a blintz and was very appealing to me during my recipe searches. I grew up having Mrs. T’s pierogies in the freezer at home and cooking and serving hundreds of them each year at a fair stand as a 4-H fundraiser. I love me some potato cheese dumplings cooked in butter and onions! But I digress.
A few (8?) years ago I saw a pierogi “maker” -which was really just a mold-for sale and bought it. I love pierogis and at that time we were starting to try to make more of our own food so this seemed like a worthy investment of about $10.00. Last year, when we moved, and I still had not yet managed to make pierogis, I’m pretty sure Kevin scoffed when I insisted we needed to box it up.
So Sunday, Rayleigh meal plans and puts pierogis on the menu – for Monday. Well as it happened Monday I needed to do a 12 mile run and I opted to run in the snow and sleet – so no from scratch pierogis were going to be made that day. We swapped for Wednesday… today… the day pierogis would finally get made!
Let me start by reminding you that 1) I love pierogis 2) they are dough, cheese and potatoes so in theory kids love them too and 3) we bake and cook a lot of food.
My pierogi “maker” came with an instruction booklet that had a dough recipe on it. The dough seemed simple enough: flour, egg, water and a little salt, knead, let rest then roll and fill. ‘Easy peasy lemon squeezy’. Except… no.
I made the dough just like my instructions that I have managed to kept track of for nearly 10 years suggested. The dough was… dry… hard to work with…and well just hard. It is worth noting that I make dough of some variety most days of the week. The kids know that on occasion I will make a dough that seems wrong and can add a little of this or knead some of that in or sometimes just let the dough rest enough to bring it back to life. Sometimes I can’t totally save it and we turn that loaf into croutons or dip it into soup instead. One time 4 years ago while making pies I messed up 2 pies in the same day… it was so traumatic we all still remember the day ‘Mom couldn’t bake pies’. But this pierogi dough… made me nervous. And having never made it before I couldn’t judge just how crumbly it should be from experience. I let the dough rest and decided to try again…
This time using slightly different proportions from a well reviewed internet recipe. And I recruited Rayleigh to help make the dough. Maybe this was a ME problem not a dough problem? Her dough turned out slightly better, although she too had reservations about her crumbly lump turning into dinner. But we covered it dutifully, set it aside and got to work on our filling.
Parboiled potatoes, sautéed onions and cheese mashed together. Done.
My instructions told me to cut the dough in quarters, roll thin, lay over the mold, press, fill, and cover. Simple enough. I cut Rayleigh’s dough in half and then half again and start to roll. The dough is tight but rolling better than expected… perhaps this isn’t as bad as I thought. I quickly realize I’ll be lucky if I get more than a dozen pierogis out of this batch of dough. Not nearly enough to feed my family of 6 dinner. Also, it has now taken nearly 15 minutes to roll out each section so even if I was willing to make more dough I’m going to be out of time. I quickly roll, fill, and press the last of the pierogis together – making sure to carefully layer my dough to get as many pockets as possible out of each fold. I manage a total of 32 potato filled pockets. The best pierogis are boiled (for safety) and then sautéed in more butter and onions. More than 6 hours after I started to make this dough I finally have the first 6 ready to be served. By now it is about an hour past our normal dinner hour. Which means 1 kid is too tired to even try my homemade pierogi, 1 kid is complaining I’m serving hot food – they’d really prefer ice cream- in a waffle cone, 1 kid is eager to eat all the pierogis and happy takes the left overs, and Rayleigh is willing to try them if for no reason other than she both planned the meal and helped make the dough.
In the end, we collectively ate about 10 pierogis – all that worry about not having enough for naught. They were edible… but if someone asked you how your dinner was and your response was “edible”…it wouldn’t leave you with warm fuzzies. But no one was particularly thrilled with how they came out. Me most of all. I had been dreaming about homemade pierogis for years… tonight I will throw away the left over ingredients (not the completed, uneaten pierogis). Because for as much as we love using leftover ingredients and strive for minimal food waste-this was a food heartbreak. And I don’t need the reminders of my failures staring at me tomorrow morning willing me to make potato pancakes.