Monday, December 19, 2011

You say perogie, I say varenyky

Growing up one of the things I loved the most was my Grandmother's varenyky.   These little filled dumplings are pyrohy, perogies, varenyky.    To be honest, I don't hear them called pyrohy or varenyky very much these days...everyone knows them as perogies.  When I asked my Grandma why she called them varenyky, when everyone else called them perogies, she shrugged and said "in the part of the Ukraine my family came from, that's what they called them.  So that's what I call them."  

Grandma would make her dough, then roll it out and fill it with one of her two wonderful filings.   One was potato, mashed with a little onion and salt and pepper.  The other was her incredible cottage cheese filling, with onion, dill and black pepper.  I remember my mom and grandma making them together one time in our home (this was while Mom and Dad were still married to each other, of course) I think Grandma was teaching her daughter-in-law the tricks to making good varenyky.

I think they must have made 12 dozen of those triangle shaped little jewels, none more than two bites each.  They were lovely little things, made with love and a lot of skill.. You know, the kind that have just the right amount of filling, a tender,  softer than pasta-like outer casing that was just right...tender yet holding it's shape.  When bathed in butter and sauteed onions and topped with sour cream.....a little piece of heaven (via the Ukraine) on earth.

Now my mom would make perogies and cabbage rolls long after she and my dad split...simply because she wanted to ensure we grew up eating traditional foods from both our Hungarian and Ukrainian sides of the family.  But at some point, I took the job of making the varenyky over from her, and I enjoyed it.  But as good as our versions were, they still couldn't touch Grandma's....and we kids enjoyed them once a year at the Christmas dinners we shared with her and my dad over the years.  I think my nieces have inherited a love of them too which makes my heart happy.  

I am not making a Christmas dinner this year, but next year I am dreaming of making these for the Beau and his family.  If you want to make your own, here's my Grandma's varenyky recipe:

Pyrohy/Varenyky Dough

3 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp cooking oil (I use canola)
1 egg
1 tsp salt

Beat egg, add oil and water.  Mix with the flour and salt.  Knead well to make a soft dough.  Let it stand, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Roll it out like pie dough (i.e. on a floured surface, and roll the dough thin like pie dough).  Cut into squares and place a little of the filling (about 2 tsps is good) on each square.  Fold over into a triangle and pinch the edges together well.  

Pyrohy/Varenyky Fillings:

Use 5 to 6 large potatoes and one large onion, unless instructions say differently.

Potato I

Boil potatoes and mash well.  While the potatoes are boiling, take 12 strips of bacon and chop into small pieces.  Fry with finely chopped onion until onion is cooked through (brown at edges) and bacon is very well cooked.  Add the onion, bacon and drippings to the mashed potato.  Taste the filling and season with salt if needed and lots of pepper.

Potato II

Boil potatoes and mash well.  Finely chop a large onion  and then fry it in butter (1/2 cup) along with 1 to 2 cups of finely chopped mushrooms.  Saute until both are browned.  Combine with potatoes, salt, dill, pepper (taste the filling to determine how much of each you need to's all to your taste.)

Potato III

Peel and boil 3 large potatoes and mash well.   Take 6 strips of bacon, chopped into small pieces.  Fry this with half of one large onion finely chopped.  Take 2 cups of sauerkraut and squeeze as much of liquid out of it as possible.  Add it to the frypan.  (some people like to add 1 tbsp tomato paste as well). Let it saute for about 5 minutes.  Combine with potato and season with black pepper.

Sorry, none of these recipes feature cheese in the filling.  I am not that kind of Ukrainian!!!!  I am sure you could grate cheese into mashed potatoes with sauteed onions and salt and pepper to make a filling. 

Cottage Cheese Filling:

4 to 5 cups of dry curd cottage cheese (NOT creamed)
1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
Fresh dill chopped (good 1/4 cup)

Combine the ingredients, mashing the cottage cheese so that it starts to stick together, although the egg will bind it well.   Use about 2 tsps of filling for each varenyky.

Putting It All Together:

In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil.  Add salt and then drop the varenyky ONE AT A TIME into the water.  Let cook for about a minute, or until they rise to the top of the water.  Drain in a colander and place in a bowl.  I won't hurt to drizzle some melted butteron them and toss gently to help keep them from sticking together.  Bring the water back to a rollicking boil before adding the next batch.  
Melt butter in large heavy frypan.  Add chopped onion, as much or as little as you like, and saute until onion is cooked through and is carmelizing (getting brown around the edges.  Pour over the varenyky and enjoy....oh don't forget the sour cream.

No calorie count for these little beauties, my friends!!!

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