Once a year my husband, GWH, leaves me for another woman. Sylvia. Yes, he packs all his things into his truck and drives for about eight hours to see her. And every year, I take him back with open arms; the heavy perfume of fried onions clinging to his clothing, sour cream on his collar. What does Sylvia have that I don’t, you ask? …….Perogies; Sylvia has perogies. Sylvia has beautiful, amazing perogies, apparently. Hmmph.
So you can imagine my hesitation when I saw this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge revealed:
“The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.”
My first thought was, “That’s what she makes. That’s her dish” But then an idea began to formulate. I was going to cook my man back to me. No longer would he have to go elsewhere for his perogies! He would eat his perogies at home!
So I set aside a day to make perogies; clad in babushka, apron and bare feet; my face scrubbed clean to reveal my best ruddy complexion. I even considered phoning my Polish girlfriend for a little Eastern Bloc support. I imagined Sylvia in her kitchen, her large capable hands kneading the dough. Her name was probably actually Olga or Lara or something like that. I had visions of my husband pulling into the gravel parking lot of Sylvia’s Restaurant, the theme song from Dr. Zhivago playing on his radio. He screeches in, jumps from his truck, leaving the door open in his hurry to get to her, the strains of the poignant music echoing through the parking lot. (The scene is in slow motion now) He runs up the stairs and opens the door as she places the fresh plate of steaming perogies on the Formica table. He sinks into the chair and her name, like a sigh, escapes from his lips. Sylvia.
Okay, enough already. I had had enough. I was going to make perogies better than Sylvia or Olga or whatever her name was. So I set out to do just that. I started first thing in the morning because I had heard that it took a long time to make these perogies. These Russian* women were a hardy type but then so were us Newfies*. I decided that we needed to have a full Russian meal to go with our perogies so I proceeded to make Borscht and Cabbage Rolls first. I skirted around the perogy thing. I was avoiding it. Afraid my perogies wouldn’t measure up. Finally, I decided it was do or die. Around 3:00 I thought that I had better get it done if I was going to serve perogies for dinner.
Following is the recipe provided for the challenge:
Russian Style Perogy
2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt pinch of pepper to taste
1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.
2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass. Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.
4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.
5. Serve immediately preferably with crème fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.
There was no stopping me now. I decided to get creative with my fillings. After all, variety is the spice of life, right? And I am pretty sure Sylvia doesn’t have perogies like these.
So this year when GWH leaves me to go hunting – and leave me he will – he won’t be stopping at Sylvia’s. He has asked that I make him some perogies to take with him. And I will do so, gladly. Sorry Sylvia.
* Note: This post was not meant to offend any Russian women. I believe that being a Newfie, and the subject of many, many jokes, gives me some license to poke fun at other ethnic groups, just a little. And to prove my ability to laugh at myself, you will find some Newfie jokes here.