I have a thing for dumplings. No matter how long I reflect upon a restaurant menu, I end up ordering wonton, gyoza, samosa, empanada, ravioli, pierogi (of course) or any other kind. I am always curious about the ingredients used in the filling, cooking techniques—was it steamed, boiled, fried or baked?—the sauce that sometimes accompanies my order and the look of pleats that seal their edges. Yes, I like to analyze them perhaps even more than I want to admit. 

Making pierogi was the second kitchen task given to me by my mother when I was about five. My first task, which almost completely discouraged me from cooking, consisted of beating the egg whites. It turned out that because of my food allergy, when tiny particles of egg foam landed on my skin they triggered an itchy red “polka dot” rash and big tears. My mother soon reassigned me. Making pierogi was easy on my skin but technically way more difficult and time consuming than whipping up meringue for an apple pie.

In our tiny kitchen, where two people wouldn’t pass without bumping into each other, my mother, my father and I stood side by side working in a dumpling production line. My mother was in charge. After mixing flour with yolk, salt and water, she rolled out a thin layer of what would soon become dumplings’ soft shell. When a piece of elastic dough started looking like a large irregularly shaped lake covered by flour dust, my father equipped with a teacup quickly cut out the circles. Those perfectly round discs of dough had to be filled and sealed by my inexperienced little hands. 

My first pierogi had too much filling and would’t fold in half. Whether it was ground beef and spice, mushroom with sauerkraut or farmer’s cheese and potato mush, no more than a small spoon of it could fit inside. Once I got the right amount of filling, pinching the edges of the dough in even intervals was my new challenge and it was a tough one. “They look a little off,” my father used to laugh about my pierogi’s style. He lovingly helped me figure out the water resistant twist of dough that would disable dumplings from splitting open in their boiling water bath. He even tried to imitate my uneven pleats that differed from my mother’s orderly ones. At the table, when our dinner was already garnished with browned bits of onion and golden butter drops, my father and I played a game of guessing which pierogi were his, my mom’s and mine. 

I still admire the perfectly shaped half moons, pea pods and big hugs, but only the less perfect kind brings my childhood memories back to life.


Guess what I ordered at Anna's Polish Restaurant? Pierogi stuffed with potatoes and farmer's cheese (pictured above). If you too want to order them and sound like you know what you are talking about, by all means don't say “pierogies” because “pierogi” is already the plural form of “pieróg”, a single dumpling. And here is how to make pierogi at home taking a shortcut, Asian style. 

by Marta Madigan

makes 30 pierogi

½ package Nasoya round wraps (30 wonton wrappers)
3 tablespoons all-purpuse flour for dusting the work surface
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for the egg wash 
2 teaspoon butter 
1 medium yellow onion, diced (half reserved for topping)
3 medium potatoes, peeled 
¾ cup farmer's cheese (or bryndza, or cream cheese)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in salted water till tender for about ½ hour. While taters are simmering, melt 1 teaspoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the chopped onions, cook till golden brown stirring from time to time. Set aside. Drain and mash potatoes until smooth. Stir in farmer's cheese and onions. Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt (bryndza—a sheep milk cheeseis a bit saltier than farmer's or cream cheese). 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While water is getting hot, place wonton wrappers on a lightly floured work surface. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold and seal pierogi by making several pleats. Put pierogi into the boiling water, 10 at the time. Once they float, cook them for another 3 minutes. Drain. 

Serve with caramelized onions (use the remaining butter and diced onion) and sour cream. Smacznego—is Polish for bon appétit!

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