Gridiron Grub: In the Pocket
Well the holidays are over and the east coast is in the process of clearing out from the first significant snowstorm of the year. Because of this snowmageddon/snowpocalypse, or whatever else weatherman say to get us to stay tuned in, my beloved Eagles moved their game from Sunday to Tuesday night.
It is a move that did not go over well. Even Gov. Ed Rendell came out and called America a nation of wusses. To be fair this is the same man who years ago admitted that when he was a Philadelphia-based district attorney he offered cash to anyone who could reach the field with a snowball. Despite the snow being cleared, the Iggles must not have been told that they were supposed to play Tuesday night because they barely showed up. Their lackluster effort ensured that the high point of the night would be the pierogi we had thawed out for dinner.
It is a shame that not everyone is familiar with the pierogi, or Polish dumpling. I happened to grow up in an area with a mix of some pretty strong ethnic communities — pierogi, borscht, halupki and kaszanka were all part of our diet. At Christmas, one friend’s family would spend an entire day making hundreds of different pierogies with traditional fillings such as potato and cheese, mushroom, minced pork, sauerkraut, blueberries etc…
This year, a few of us decided to make some ourselves to have for the holidays and freeze for the coming months. Thankfully they turned out well, so Tuesday I broke them out for an easy dinner to have while watching the game.
The dough for pierogi is surprising simple and easy to work with, though it does take a little elbow grease. We used the 321 method our friend Katie had been taught. 3 cups of flour, 2 eggs and 1 cup of sour cream. This somehow ends up being fairly sticky and still dry which is an odd combination but with a little kneading and 20 minutes in the fridge, you are ready to roll. We quickly found out the key is to roll the dough to a uniform thickness of about 1/16 of an inch. Any more or less and the final product was either too doughy or didn’t hold the fillings well enough. With the rolled-out dough, you’ll cut circles about the size of a cocktail shaker, which was our weapon of choice that day.
We decided to start with 5 lbs of potatoes and ended up making 3 different fillings but had the same base for each: a mix of potato, the potato water, milk and unsalted butter. Essentially you’re going to go through the same process you would with making mashed potatoes except for one small difference. You still boil and drain the potatoes, warm the water, milk, butter and go ahead mashing but you will want to add less liquid than you do with mashed potatoes so that you have a slightly denser end result. Add some salt and pepper to taste near the end and you’re set.
We divided the filling base into 3 equal parts and added:
1) 1 1/2 cups of fresh grated Cotswald cheese (a cheddar with spring onions and chives)
2) 1 1/2 cups caramelized onions and chopped bacon
3)1 1/2 cups pickled jalapenos and mild cheddar
We went with a little less than a tablespoon of filling per pierogi and folded the dough over the filling in half circles before pressing the edges with a fork. In addition to the many pierogi we inhaled that night, we also let some chill on a cookie sheet before freezing so that they would not stick to each other.
Tuesday night, a package of frozen bacon and onion pierogies were what accompanied the Eagles loss. To prep, I boiled them for 3-4 minutes and then switched them over to a nonstick pan on medium heat with some butter and a little minced garlic until they got nice and crispy.
You can have your drink of choice but we had a few shots of Berechovka, an herbal bitters that a Czech friend introduced us to a few years ago. Anise, cinnamon and other herbs are used in the liqueur and it paired well with the crispy pierogi and the tangy taste of disappointment.