The Dish: Pierogies!
A dumpling is a beautiful thing, a self-contained little bite of goodness. Growing up in New York afforded me frequent visits to the vast dumpling playground that is Chinatown. The first thing I always do after touching down at JFK is pay a visit to Joe’s Shanghai for their Xiaolongbao. And living in the Far East, dumplings have become an inexorable part of my diet.
When I first spotted a jar of sauerkraut last year in Shinsaegae’s imported food shop (which, to my delight, I also discovered in the Namcheon Mega Mart’s organics section), my mind immediately went to my NYC Ukrainian food go-to, Veselka. A pierogie is just a dumpling, after all, isn’t it? So why couldn’t I make pierogies myself – certainly pre-made mandu wrappers exist for ‘too lazy to make dough’ people like me. It seems I’m not the only one, as I found them all over the place – in every freezer section of every mart.
And so I give you the recipe that was born of that fateful sauerkraut score, which might give my Ukrainian friends on the Lower East Side a run for their money. This one requires some work, so throw on a good playlist, crack a bottle of vino and tie on those apron strings!
Carmelized Onion, Sauerkraut and Havarti Pierogies
How to do it
Makes 25 pierogies
4 Medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 Large onion, diced evenly
200g sour cream or plain Denmark yogurt ( ½ for cooking, ½ for dipping)
100g Danish Havarti Cheese (available at Mega Mart) cubed into ½ inch squares
6 Tbsp. Sauerkraut
½ Cup milk
1 package (25) round mandu wrappers
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Salt and Pepper
Medium sized pot
Large, Flat, Clean Work Surface
Small mixing bowl
Large mixing bowl
Colander with small holes
A slatted spoon or spatula
Paper towels (for draining oil)
First and foremost, make sure the mandu wrappers, which usually come frozen, are fully defrosted.
On a low flame, heat 1 cup of oil and 2 tbsp. of butter in a pot. When it starts to sizzle, add the onions, and stir immediately so that all of the onions are equally coated. Stir up the onions every minute for about 12 minutes, or until the onions are a deep brown color.
Drain the butter out in a colander, then set onions aside in a bowl. Next, boil the quartered potatoes for 10-15 minutes. They are ready when you can stick a fork in easily without them falling apart. Drain the water. In the pot, mix the potatoes, caramelized onions, sauerkraut, milk, havarti and salt and pepper to taste. Heat on a medium flame, stirring constantly until the cheese is melted.
Remove the mixture from the flame and transfer into a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix about a cup of water with 2 tbsp. flour. Place each mandu wrapper flat, and use your finger to wet the edge, all the way around, with the water/flour mix. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper, then fold it into a half moon shape. With your fingers, gently ‘pet’ the top until there is no air trapped inside the dumpling. Then fold the edges in on themselves, so that the dumpling is fully sealed. Use a fork to press down the edges, both to seal and to create a decorative ridge.
Boil lightly salted water, about 5-6 inches deep. When it is boiling, add 5-6 pierogies, gently, using your spoon to make sure that they don’t stick to each other or to the bottom of the pot. Boil each round of pierogies for about 4 minutes, and carefully use your slatted spoon to slide them out of the pot and drain excess water. Lay each round of boiled pierogies on a large, non-stick surface (I use a plain ol’ ceramic plate), keeping them completely separated. (note, you don’t have to change the water in between rounds). When all the pierogies are boiled, heat about ½ inch of oil in a frying pan, and fry the pierogies until they are slightly brown on each side. Lay flat on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve warm with sour cream, plain yogurt or ranch dressing for dipping.