THE RECIPE BOX – The art of pierogi-making

THE RECIPE BOX – The art of pierogi-making

WOONSOCKET — There’s no better way to immerse yourself into another’s culture than by taking a cooking class to learn about how to prepare particular food and how to make it authentically. Such was my experience last Sunday afternoon when I attended a pierogi-making class with my husband, Jim, at the Krakow Deli and Smokehouse at 855 Social St.

Hosted by Krystian Przybylko and his sister, Marta Samek, along with the help of their mother, 12 of us gathered and feasted. “We try to keep the Polish traditions,” Krystian said. “We make everything from scratch and use the freshest ingredients.” While these methods are very labor intensive, the end result is phenomenal.

All the set-ups were ready when we arrived. “Wash your hands and grab an apron,” Marta said. The black aprons with the Krakow logo in red went home with each participant, along with a couple of dozen pierogies each made with our own two hands.

Sprinkled in with the directions on how to mix the dough and how to knead it for at least 10 minutes, were little snippets of life in Poland and Krystian’s favorite part of the pierogies. “You can’t have enough of the caramelized onions and bacon,” he said. “Russian pierogies have onions, mushrooms and cheese.”

He called the dough a “simple” dough, and it was. No butter to chop in, just King Arthur flour and hot boiling water. Meanwhile, Marta showed how to easily chop a large white onion and suggested adding a small bit of cooking oil in with the butter to sauté it with the bacon.

“The oil slows the burning process of cooking the onions,” she added. She said to sauté it for about 25 minutes over a low heat. They were nicely browned. Said Krystian, “This (the browned onions and bacon) is the key to a good pierogi!”

He encouraged everyone to massage the pierogi dough. “Just play with it, so you get to know what it should feel like,” he said.

And then began the piece de resistance! Snack time(s). Once the dough was mixed and set under a cloth, out came the white Barszcz (borscht) soup for all to have. “This was considered a peasant soup,” we were told. “A simple flour, water and garlic base allowed to ferment in the broth.” We all enjoyed the white sour soup with a chunk of fresh kielbasa that was so tender, and then back to work.

We learned about farmer’s cheese, a white mild and crumbly cheese that’s also known as fresh cheese. Favored because it was the easiest to make in Poland where small rural farms had maybe two cows. There was no aging required, and it’s mild flavor works in many recipes. Poland staples include root vegetables, cabbages, potatoes, horseradish and more. “We eat bread three times a day,” Krystian said smiling, referring to dark rye bread.

The fresh kielbasa was amazing. “This is the only type of kielbasa that must be cooked first, simmer it just below a boil,” Krystian shared. “Cook until it’s 165 degrees for about 35 minutes.” If you like kielbasa and have never tried this “fresh” uncooked type, it is definitely worth the ride to get some.

The other big tip for making the filling for the pierogies is to cook the Idaho brand potatoes the day before, mash and drain them really well. “Leave them in the fridge, mashed and uncovered to help the moisture draw down,” he added. The pierogies are served in a Polish home for Christmas, Easter and in the summertime, said Krystian. It’s easily three to four hours of work and the cabbage pierogies take even more time.

All the while, we were making our dough logs, rolling them, cutting into equal portions and then making the individual discs. Marta flowed in and out of the two long tables gracefully removing dirty dishes and replacing the set-ups with the next item we’d need.

She also busied herself up front slicing apples, making more dough discs for the pierogies and teaching us about fruit fillings. Pierogies are very flexible and can be filled with either sweet or savory fillings.

Remember the most important part of making the pierogi is pinching the edges closed, we were told. If you did not do this properly the potato and cheese filling would likely seep into the boiling water when cooking them. After all the labor you do not want that to occur. Just then, out came the pans on little burners filled with boiling water. Once the pierogies floated to the top it was a 2-minute cook time and then out of the pan.

Each person got a foil pan for their own pierogies and a spoonful of the sautéed onion and bacon to go on top.

And then came lunch! Served by Marta and her mother, a giant golumpki, potato and cheese filled pierogies, and a poor-man’s pierogi. It was such a treat to get to eat this authentic Polish lunch. Then came Marta’s dessert pierogies, one with blueberries, one with apple and another with cinnamon and sugar, all served with sweet cream. Amazing!

I would highly recommend attending one of these classes. It was quite the learning experience and I have a new appreciation for the labor that is involved in making these authentic food items.

The classes cost $85 per person (or $80 per person in groups of two or more) for the education, entertainment and the full lunch with dessert. You get to keep your apron and there’s a diploma earned at the end!

There will be a couple coming up in the very near future, golumpki for one. Follow the Krakow Deli Facebook page for the listings.


Pierogi Dough

Ingredients:

2 cups King Arthur flour

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2/3 cup hot boiling water

Pinch of salt

Directions Dough:

1. To make the dough: Mix together the flour and salt. Add the oil and the boiling water to the flour and combine. The dough will be quite clumpy at this stage.

2. Work until the dough comes together in a slightly rough, slightly sticky ball.

3. Using your hand, knead and fold the dough for about 10 minutes, without adding additional flour, until the dough becomes less sticky but still quite moist. Cover with a towel to keep moist.

4. Next, form small discs about the size of the palm of your hand. Stretch and use a rolling pin if desired. They should be between 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in thickness. Set aside on your floured board, but do not get flour on the top of the disc as it will impede the process of sealing the dough once filled.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 lb. Idaho mashed potatoes, well drained

1/4 lb. farmers cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

Note: Additionally, saute 1 large white onion with some thick cut bacon together in a frying pan with a little butter. Cook until caramelized, set aside to use as a garnish on top of the finished pierogies once cooked.

Directions Filling:

1. Mix all ingredients together, it’s OK if it’s a bit chunky if you like the cheese flavor. Make several small round balls once cooled, and set aside.

2. To assemble the pierogies take a small dough disc, place a potato and cheese ball in the center. Fold the dough over the mound and press the edges closed all the way around using your fingertips. Do not pinch into the filling area, do not leave any portion of the edges unsealed as it will seep out during the boiling/cooking process.

3. To cook, drop about a dozen of the pierogies into a pot of boiling, salted water that has a little vegetable oil added to it. Stir once around the bottom of pan to be sure none have stuck. Once they have floated up to the top, time the simmer for 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or pan. Top with a generous spoonful of sauteed onion and bacon. Serve warm right away.

Note: You may heat leftovers in a frying pan with a little butter. They can be frozen up to four weeks by placing individually onto a cookie sheet directly in the freezer until set, then put them frozen into a plastic bowl or reclosable baggies.

Lise Bolduc, of Marlborough, Mass., carefully drops the pierogies into a pot of boiling water as Gloria Creswell, of Auburn, Mass., looks on. (Breeze photos by Rhonda Hanson)
Krystian Przybylko, owner of Krakow Deli in Woonsocket, prepares to spread caramelized onions on top of the pierogis made by Elaine Swallow, of Sutton, Mass.