Ah, the most revered of Pittsburgh picnic delicacies- the salty, savory, butter-glistening pierogie. Many Eastern European cultures lay claim to the original, but in Pittsburgh we’re satisfied with lumping it into the general hunky classification. Both my Polish and my Slovak grandmothers enjoyed making and eating pierogies, and their recipes were very similar. Fillings for this scrumptious dumpling can range from potatoes to cabbage – or even prunes. You’ll find a lot of sour cream based dough recipes online, but I prefer this all-butter recipe. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the entire process from scratch.
In following posts, I’ll share alternative filling options, but let’s start with the popular Potato and Cheese variation.
For the dough
- 4 cups flour
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened & cut into 4 pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
- more flour as needed
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, and softened butter. Using the paddle attachment, gradually increase the mixer speed to medium while drizzling the water into the bowl to moisten the dough. Then add the eggs one at a time. Continue mixing for 30 seconds.
With floured hands, pull the dough out of the mixer bowl and knead slightly into a smooth, round ball. If the dough is tacky, add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time, as you knead. Do not overwork the dough here- you just want to get the dough into a ball.
Cut the dough ball into 4 equally sized pieces. Wrap each hunk of dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
After chilling, remove the dough to a floured work surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough with a rolling pin until it is as thin as a pie dough. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to create rounds of dough.
On a large cookie sheet, lay the dough rounds on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper.
You can stack layers of parchment and rounds, just be sure to dust a little flour over the rounds before laying the next sheet of parchment (parchment, flour, dough, flour, parchment, etc.), and cover the sheets of dough with an additional layer of parchment and then a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying. Do not allow the dough rounds to touch each other.
Potato & Cheese filling
- 10 potatoes, peeled & cubed
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp snipped chives
- 3 oz Farmers Cheese, grated
- 3 oz Gruyere Cheese, grated
Add the potatoes to a large pot of well-salted, cold water and bring to a boil. Bring to a boil and let cook 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes easily break apart when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes. While still hot, transfer to a large bowl. Add butter & salt and mash with a potato masher (you could use a ricer or hand blender instead) until few if any solid lumps remain. Refrigerate potato mixture until cool. Once cool, add the chives & cheeses and stir until evenly distributed. Return to refrigerator, covered, until ready to fill pierogies.
To fill the pierogies, you can use a tool like the one pictured here (I bought this one at Giant Eagle in the baking section for less than $5), or just use your hands like grandma used to do.
Keep a small bowl of cool water nearby to dip your fingertips in to make a tight seal with the edges of the dough. Take one dough round and roll it into a 4-inch round with a rolling pin, or use your fingers to press and stretch the dough til it’s four inches in diameter.
Place 1 even tablespoon full of filling into the center of the dough. If using your hands, simply fold the dough sides in half over the filling and squeeze the edges closed, pushing out any air and being sure the filling doesn’t escape at all. Use a little water to seal together the edges if they are dry. If you are using the dumpling press, just lay the 4 inch dough on top, place your filling in the center, smear a little water around the edges and press. Trim the edges with a paring knife if necessary.
Lay the filled pierogies in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze the pierogies for at least 30 minutes before transferring to a gallon-sized freezer bag. I use a system of rotating baking sheets to fill, freeze, and bag my pierogies.
Now the hard work is done and you’re ready to eat!
Prepare a large pot of heavily salted, boiling water. Meanwhile, make a butter and onion sauce. This will make enough sauce for about 20 pierogies (3-4 people).
- 1/2 cup of ghee (or 1 stick of butter)
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- ground black pepper, to taste
In a large, flat-bottomed saute pan, melt the butter or ghee over high heat. Wait for the foam to subside, then immediately reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Saute the onions for two minutes, then stir in the salt (to taste) and cover the pan and allow to cook until you have finished boiling the pierogies in the next step.
Plunge the frozen pierogies into the pot of boiling water. Allow the water to return to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer over medium heat. The pierogies will be fully cooked when they have all floated to the top of the water.
Increase the heat to high on the butter sauce and transfer the pierogies with a slotted spoon to the pan with the onions and butter. Lightly brown the pierogies on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, being careful not to burn or over-brown the onions. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pierogies and onions to a plate. Finish with a dusting of ground pepper. Enjoy with friends!
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