Friday, January 08, 2010

A Polish Feast

I make no bones about the fact of my Polish heritage. Though living in Louisiana has been a welcome break from Polack jokes--they prefer Boudreaux and Thibodaux jokes down here, much as the Scandinavians up in the Dakotas and Minnesota prefer the Sven and Ole jokes--I delight in the jokes, because they remind me that we tend to look at the world from a different perspective than the rest of the world. Some of the greatest thinkers in history have been Polish. Ever heard of Copernicus? That is the Latinized form of his name, Mikolaj Kopernik. Madame Curie? Her maiden name was Maria Skłodowska. (And people think Kornacki is a difficult name!) You may also have heard of the composer and pianist Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen, who is more commonly known by the French version of his name, Chopin. Have you read Heart of Darkness? Thank Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, also known as Joseph Conrad.

But enough name-dropping. This entry is actually about food. When the Kornacki family took our September vacation in my hometown of North Tonawanda--a suburb of Buffalo for the uninitiated--my father spent a day showing me how to make pierogi. Pierogi are comparable to dumplings or ravioli. They can be filled with pretty much anything, including cheese, bacon, sausage, and fruit. The favorite version in the Kornacki house, however, is the potato and sauerkraut pieróg. My wife doesn't do sauerkraut, so Dad also taught me the potato and onion variety.

Some American families save these delights for holidays, but they're good at any time. And since we're in the middle of a cold snap even here in the deep south, this would be a great time to fatten up the family! Make no mistake: this is not a diet food. But even if it kills you, I guarantee that you will die happy!

Though he'd never really written down a recipe, we put one together as we made the pierogi so I could have a reference to go by when I made mine. We never recorded how big a batch this would make, but we know for a fact that you can comfortably feed a family of six with plenty left over. Since this blog is all about the sharing of God's wonderful gifts with His people, I wanted to share this mundane (and yet so sublime!) blessing with you. Smacznego! (Good appetite!)

(and potato and onion)

Part I: Filling

2 large cans of sauerkraut
5 lbs. potatoes
2 large Spanish onions
3 sticks of butter
½ cup milk

1. Squeeze juice out of sauerkraut by hand (skip 1-5 if no sauerkraut is desired)
2. Boil sauerkraut in water
3. Drain
4. Rinse with cold water
5. Squeeze water out thoroughly
6. Skin the taters
7. Cut taters into similar size pieces
8. Boil in salty water until fork tender
9. Drain
10. Mash (but don’t whip) with ½ cup milk and 1 stick of butter
11. Skin the onions
12. Cut onions into onion sticks approx. 1-1.5 inches long (chop fine if not using kraut)
13. Sautee onions with 2 sticks of butter (1 stick if not using kraut)
14. Mix onions with drained kraut (skip if not using kraut)
15. Heat to reduce water (skip if not using kraut)
16. Mix onions and kraut into potatoes
17. Add salt and pepper to taste

Part II: Dough

8 cups flour (plus flour for table)
2 tablespoons salt
4 eggs
½ cup oil
2 cups cold water

2. Beat 4 eggs
3. 8 cups flour in large bowl
4. Add 2 tablespoons salt, 4 beaten eggs, ½ cup oil, 2 cups cold water
5. Mix with roasting fork until doughy
6. Lightly to moderately flour the table
7. Shake loose flour lightly onto dough
8. Mix with hands
9. Let rest for ½ hour

Part III: Assembly

Cooled filling
Butter (you’ll need a lot!)

2. But water on to boil, but not a hard boil (continue on as you wait for boil)
3. Flour the table
4. Cut large handful of dough from dough mass
5. Roll dough handful into tube snake about the diameter of large marshmallow
6. Cut pieces into size of two large marshmallows end to end
7. Flour one side of each piece
8. Using thumbs, fold over pieces so the floured outsides cover the exposed dough
9. Using rolling pin (marble preferred to avoid sticking), roll pieces flat (but not paper-flat) to the size of a baseball or softball
10. Use spoon to scoop out spoonful of filling (smaller than a golf ball, but not much smaller)
11. Put filling in middle of flattened dough piece
12. Pinch shut firmly, folding over edges—use a fork if necessary, but leave no openings
13. Put finished pierogi into gently boiling water (you can put about a dozen in a large pot)
14. Stir every few minutes with the back of a large wooden spoon, making sure water continues to gently boil
15. Melt 2 or more sticks of butter in saucepan
16. Remove pierogi from water when they float, place on plate
17. Pour melted butter over pierogi
18. Salt to taste
19. Eat until you’re about to explode

Part IV: Leftovers

1. Allow boiled leftovers to cool
2. Place leftovers in large plastic bag so they can lay mostly flat when bag is on its side
3. Pour in some melted butter
4. Let cool
5. Place bag(s) in freezer (or fridge for next-day consumption)
6. Remove bag from freezer
7. Put a little butter in frying pan
8. Put leftovers in frying pan
9. Heat until golden brown on both sides
10. Serve with more melted butter

Incidentally, if you would like to assemble them for later boiling and consumption, they can be frozen. After the assembly portion, instead of boiling them, place them in a air-tight container lined with waxed paper, preferably not touching each other. To stack them on top of each other, just place a sheet of waxed paper between each layer. Dad has been known to use cling wrap to keep the individual pierogi from touching, which makes it less likely that they will freeze togther and break open while cooking.

1 comment:

superdave said...

My mother-in-law has been using this recipe for 50 years.

Dave Kornacki