You may have noticed that my recipes have taken a definitive turn from salad to carb-heavy comfort food over the past few months. I’m still eating my veggies, folks, but I’ve been in need of serious carby comfort. (I’ll blame it on the lousy weather in April and May.) While I was heading out of the library a couple of weeks ago, my eagle eyes zoomed in on a brightly colored book displayed near the exit. Emblazoned across its cover was the promise of “COMFORT FOOD”. I was in. During my bus commute home that evening, I flipped through Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook, marking the many recipes I wanted to try.
Last weekend, I pulled out my ingredients for his Polish Pierogi recipe and set to work. First and foremost, don’t let the ingredients list intimidate you. The dough is easy to make (even more so if you have a stand mixer), and you’ll have more than enough filling to freeze leftovers so that your next pierogi-making adventure moves even more quickly.
That prep work paid off, though, with a big, majestic bowl of pierogis. I’m already a fan of dumplings in any form, and these pillowy dumplings filled with savory vegetables and cheese live up to all my comfort food needs. Surprisingly they weren’t the gut bombs you might expect from a wheat-based dumpling because the cheese and potatoes were balanced by the cabbage/onion/caraway combo. If you want to feel virtuous, use reduced fat sour cream for the dough and sauce. I went with regular sour cream and savored every bite.
(a Jamie Oliver Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook recipe)
(Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main dish)
– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
– 1 3/4 cups sour cream, divided (you’ll use some for the dough and the rest for the delicious sour cream sauce)
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 2 large eggs
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 of a green cabbage (8 oz)
– 2 TBS white wine vinegar
– 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (or any smaller thin-skinned white potatoes)
– 2 tsp caraway seeds (you’ll lightly toast them in a pan before using them in the recipe.)
– 2 medium white or yellow onions
– Olive oil
– Unsalted butter
– 4 oz extra sharp Cheddar cheese
– white pepper
– 1 bunch of fresh chives (about 1 oz)
– 1 lemon (Zest it, and then squeeze out its juice, discarding seeds that may have snuck into your juice bowl.)
1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with 2/3 cup of sour cream. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp of the the salt, mixing until the dough comes together. (I used my stand mixer, and this step was done within one minute.) Knead on a flour-dusted surface until smooth, and then wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest until ready to roll out. (I’d let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.)
2. After you’ve put a pot of salted water on to get boiling, coarsely grate the cabbage into a medium bowl, toss with the vinegar and a pinch of salt, and leave to pickle. (I used my standard metal cheese grater to take care of business here.)
3. While the pot of water is heating, peel potatoes, and cut into chunks. When the water starts to boil, toss the potato chunks in the water, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until you can squish a potato chunk against the pot. Drain, and steam dry.
4. While the potatoes are cooling, place the caraway seeds in a cold frying pan, place on medium-low heat, and toast for a few minutes to bring out the flavor. Finely chop your onions, and grate the cheese.
5. When the caraway seeds are lightly toasted, add a glug of olive oil and the onions to the pan and sauté for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Then add the cabbage (with all its vinegar-y goodness) and a pat of butter, cooking for 5 minutes before mashing in the potatoes and stirring in the cheese and a pinch of white pepper. Remove from heat and season with salt and more pepper to taste, and allow to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. (Keep in mind that the dough is not highly seasoned, so be sure to add enough salt to the filling so that you get a balanced pierogi.)
6. As the filling cools, wash and very finely chop the chives. Mix sour cream, chives, lemon zest and juice, and a splash of water in a small bowl. Season with salt and store in the fridge.
7. Prepare work surface with flour. Divide dough into two pieces, and then, one at a time, roll each half out to 1/16 inch thickness, dusting with flour as you go. Cut out as many circles as you can with a 3 1/2-inch cutter. (I used the top of a standard pint glass to get the size I wanted.)
8. Divide the cooled filling into heaping teaspoon portions on a tray, and then roll by hand into little balls. (You will likely have plenty of filling left over. I froze the leftovers to save time prepping the filling the next time I make these.) Place a pastry circle in the palm of your hand, put a ball of filling in the middle, gently fold in half, and pinch all the way around the half-moon shape, placing on a flour-dusted surface. Take them all to this stage, and then with a fork dipped in flour, seal and stamp around the outer edge and place on a plate holding zone.
9. In batches, cook a few pierogi at a time in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for around 4 minutes, until they rise to the surface, then carefully scoop out, put them into a large medium-hot nonstick frying pan (I used my trusty well-seasoned and well-oiled Lodge cast iron skillet) with oil, and fry until golden on one side only. Serve the pierogi on top of the chive sour cream sauce for dipping.