When I was younger my sister and I would would sometimes stay at my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Howard’s house for the night, each visit remaining memorable in my trunk of childhood memories for wonderful reasons (making gingerbread houses, renting movies, lots of quality time with my cousins.) But as taste remains such a trigger for nostalgia, I will always remember the treat of eating my Aunt Theresa’s pierogi: stuffed with pressed dried cottage cheese, smothered in butter, and served with a dollop of sour cream. Always a beacon of kindness and support, she kindly gave me the traditional Polish recipe a few years ago which I have recreated several times with great success. Her recipe is something that I cherish for its meaning in relation to my own sense of familial belonging, it makes me feel more connected to a side of my extended family that I’m not related to by blood. As such, this is my own spin on making pierogi; definitely not traditional and something altogether different from what I grew up with. These pierogi taste nutty and slightly sweet from the addition of oat flour with the basil providing a bright lift through the weight of the starchy components. You could easily choose a different cheese than Beaufort for the filling, although I love the smooth density of this particular Alpine-style cheese. Cheeses such as Gruyere, a sharp white cheddar, Comté, a young Manchego, or even cream cheese or fresh chèvre would also shape this recipe in enjoyable and distinctive ways. This is a recipe that takes a full afternoon, make these on a rainy or snowy day with good music or an interesting podcast. Take as much time as you need, get into a zen moment with the pierogi and quietly focus on the detail put into each individual dumpling. This recipe will leave you with a large batch of sweet potato pierogi and once they have been individually frozen you can bundle them up in to a freezer bag or container for later consumption.
for the filling:
1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
1/4 cup of creme fraiche
1 Tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. salt
Generous pinch of freshly cracked pepper to taste
100 g or 3 1/2 oz. of Beaufort cheese, grated
6 large basil leaves, cut in a fine chiffonade
1. Steam the sweet potato and carrot pieces until they’re tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large bowl and mash in the creme fresh, melted butter, salt, pepper, and Beaufort cheese. Stir in the fresh basil; taste and adjust for seasonings if necessary. Allow to come to room temperature.
for the pierogies:
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 Tbsp. of sour cream or Greek yogurt
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of oat flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup of water
Semolina flour, for dusting
to cook and serve the pierogi:
1 Tbsp. salted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, applesauce, bacon, extra cheese, roasted vegetables, sautéed onions, etc., basically anything you think would taste delicious with these little sweet potato dumplings!
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until a slightly wet ball of dough is formed. Turn out onto a clean surface and knead for several minutes until the dough becomes elastic and dense. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rest for an hour, during which you can make the filling for your pierogies.
2. Pat the rested dough into a small disc and cut into 4 sections, allow to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Spread a very thin layer of semolina flour on a clean surface. Roll out 1 section of dough into a very thin sheet, about 4 mm thick. Cut out as many circle shapes as you can (a juice glass works well for this) and then reroll the scraps to cut again until the dough is all cut up. If you don’t need to use all of the dough you can wrap it twice tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer to use in the next 3 months.
4. Once the dough has been cut, it’s time to assemble your pierogies! I highly recommend taking your time with this step, no casual pierogi maker can produce and enjoy making uniform dumplings if they’re in a rush (if you’re a seasoned pro at pierogi making disregard this advice, I’m pretty sure my Aunt Theresa could make pierogi in her sleep and at a deft pace, too.) For each pierogi use 1 tsp. of the sweet potato filling. Place off centre on the circle of dough and fold over, sealing the edges by pinching them together – you can use a few drops of water to help if the dough seems too dry to stick together. As you go, place each dumpling on a baking sheet dusted with more semolina until you have made all of the pierogi and freeze for 1 hour still on the baking sheet.
5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Drop the pierogi in one at a time and cook for 5 minutes before carefully draining them in a colander.
6. Finally, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat in a skillet. Fry the pierogi for a few minutes on each side when very hot until browned on both sides. Transfer with a slotted spoon onto paper towel to remove excess grease. Serve hot with any of the aforementioned toppings and bask in pierogi heaven.
This beautiful little track is the best January music: light and bright and haunting. To be fair, that describes the majority of Luxembourg’s Sun Glitters; to me it’s as if I’m hearing light hitting wavy water if you could experience the sensation as sound. They’ve been brightening up my little apartment all December and now throughout the beginning of January’s grey days.
Sun Glitters – Too Much to Lose