Monday, 19 December 2011

Pyrohy (a.k.a. pierogi)

I am what the Anthropology texts refer to as a mutt - a person of mixed heritage.  On my father's side, I am a mix of Welsh and English and on my mother's side Ukrainian.  For Christmas dinner we had standard fare:  turkey with stuffing, potatoes and root vegetables.  What we loved most, though, was my Mom's stuffing and her cabbage rolls (holubtsi).  Mom was proud of her Ukrainian heritage and this is something I picked up on.  So, when I was in my early twenties, I took it upon myself to learn how to make another Ukrainian classic, pyrohy (or the more commonly known Polish pronunciation, pierogi).  I think my Mom was pleased with my interest and they became a must-have at Christmas with both my family and my wife and her family.  Strangely, this was a dish my mother didn't make, she found them too fussy.  I find them far easier to  make than the holubtsi, which I only make occasionally for Christmas.  Sadly, my Mom passed away in 1998, but I still make the pyrohy and stuffing every year.  My daughter, the Bean, loves making them with me.  We put some Christmas music on, make the pyrohy and boil them, dancing to the music in front of the stove while we wait for the timer to ring.  I share with you my recipe for the potato and cheese version, and I look forward to hearing from you about you family's Christmas food traditions.

Geoff's Pyrohy


4 cups of flour
1 large beaten egg
1-3/4 cups of warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine wet ingredients and stir into 3 cups of flour.  Mix until everything coheres, turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining flour.  Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.  This is often a mystic and ambiguous direction, but as you knead you'll notice that the dough starts to fight back and this is a sign you're getting close.  Test the dough by sticking your finger into the dough, if the divot rebounds quickly, you're done.  Set aside to rest at least 15 minutes.

Potato and Cheese Filling

5 large yellow-fleshed potatoes
280 grams of sharp cheddar cheese (the oldest you can afford)

Peel, slice and boil potatoes until tender. While potatoes are boiling, shred the cheese.  Drain potatoes and mash until smooth.  While the potatoes are still hot, stir in cheese.  Set aside to cool, at 20 mins.

Roll out dough to about the thickness of a pie crust.  The Bean and I use a couple of my wife's coffee mugs to cut the dough into discs, but obviously any cutter in the neighbourhood of 3-1/2 inches will do.  Cut out discs of the dough and place in the palm of your hand.  Take a heaping tablespoonful of filling and place in the centre of the dough disc.  Fold the dough around the filling to form a half-circle and pinch the edges together to make a perfect seal to keep the filling in.  As you make them, place them on a tea towel and cover then with another towel to keep them from drying out.  Bring salted water to a boil. Place 8-10 pyrohy into the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes while dancing to christmas music, or until they start to float in the water.  Drain in a colander and put under cold water from the tap. Serve right away or cool them on racks, toss them with some canola oil and freeze them in the container of your choice.

We never eat them boiled.  Usually, we make them a week or two before Christmas and freeze them.  Then, we thaw them and reheat them in a skillet of butter and canola oil over medium-low heat until they are golden brown and heated through.  Serve with a garnish of crispy bacon bits, sautéed onion and sour cream.

Happy eating!  Please feel free to share some of your Christmas culinary tradtions.

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a little boy in my daycare who's grandma would come and make pyrohy with us each year. What a treat! And the kids loved it. Of course, children grow up and don't need daycare anymore and those wonderful grandma treats go with them. Maybe we can use your recipe this winter.