FINALLY. I have been looking forward to this moment for a week and a half. Honestly, how can anyone be expected to lose weight when things like hand-made peroghies with caramelized onions and bacon exist in the world? Particularly when you go to the store and they don’t have any sour cream so you are forced to buy a container of Liberte crème fraîche instead? (It’s like sour cream extreme – without the tanginess.)
So let’s lay the groundwork here. Peroghies – I am a fan. But they make a prime example of something that can be very, very good or very, very bad, and those whiter-than-white ice-crystalled wads of dough you can buy dozens of for two dollars in the freezer section of the grocery store give them a bad rap. To be honest, I’ve always felt a little ripped off that I didn’t inherit any generations- old peroghy recipes from my Ukrainian in-laws. Or cabbage rolls, even. (Or anything food related besides packs of Dentyne and bags of Bits n’ Bites at Christmas.) After all, the history that comes with them is a huge part of the peroghy experience.
So I’m happy to have fallen into a friendship with a new generation Ukrainian Baba – sure, she’s only a mama now, but she has potential. And she learned her peroghy-making techniques from her own Baba, who used to be the type to wait up with a pot of water on the boil and throw some handmade dumplings in the minute you walked in the door. Hell, I’d have married her.
It’s not so much the peroghies themselves I have trouble with – rolling and filling a dumpling is easy enough – nor the fillings; mashed potato makes a great starchy canvas to add any number of ingredients to. But the dough. I want a good, tender dough. More than that, I want one that didn’t come out of a magazine, but from someone’s Ukranian Baba who has hand rolled thousands of from-scratch peroghies in her lifetime. You can’t get much more expert than that. Even on Food Network.
So I went to C’s house the week before last – a quicker in-and-out than I would have liked, but we did squeeze in a few dozen peroghy, and it reminded me how much I like being in the kitchen with someone, chatting and wiping doughy hands on aprons in the sunny patch by the window. And how rare it is these days. It used to be how women socialized – early multitasking as they caught up on the whats what while nimbly filling and shaping hundreds of peroghy. Now we meet at Starbucks or get the news about friends having their babies when it’s posted on Facebook.
You don’t need a recipe for fillings. Seriously. Plain old mashed potato counts. Cottage cheese is common, as is cheddar and onion, but you can do whatever you like with a peroghy. I made a filling of mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and sharp cheddar, and another using up the last of the chicken and gravy from my chicken and dumplings; finely chopped and stirred into some mashed potato with garlic. C’s toddler cooed and played in her high chair with diced pears while we worked, providing inspiration for caramelized pear and ricotta filling C made after I ran off to do an interview. I can’t wait to try those. Perhaps hot and crisped up from the skillet, over vanilla ice cream.
To make your peroghy, roll the dough out fairly thin and cut into rounds with a glass rim or round cookie cutter – or not. C rolls her dough into a long rope, cuts off 1″ sections and then rolls each ball into a rough circle, thus not wasting any dough nor needing to reroll scraps, which can make dough tough. However you do it, fill each with a small spoonful of filling and fold over, pinching the edges to seal. You don’t need to brush them with water or egg wash or anything – the dough is soft enough to stick together well. (This dough, by the way, is the dough I’ve been searching for all my life.)
Once assembled, freeze them on cookie sheets – you can get away with two layers with a tea towel between them to keep them from sticking – then transfer to freezer bags. Boil from frozen until they float to the surface, then give them another minute – C serves hers like this, but I like to brown them first in the pan that I have just finished cooking bacon and caramelizing onions in. (Chop a few slices of bacon and thinly slice an onion; cook them together in a skillet until the bacon is cooked through and its rendered fat helps caramelize the onions to a deep golden.) DIVINE.
It’s a good thing we all have the ability to piecemeal together families for ourselves. Now all I need to find is a good Italian bunch who feeds large groups homemade pastas on Sunday afternoons.
One Year Ago: Thick Fried Noodles with Chicken and Ginger Beef (not a recipe – sorry)