December 22, 2013
Just before I left Vancouver in September, I finally got together with my friends Rodney and Sandi for a long overdue cooking session. We had been talking about making perogies together from almost the first day Sandi and I met, but had never quite gotten around to planning it until the clock was ticking rather loudly. Fortunately, we managed to squeeze in an afternoon of cooking a couple of weeks before I got on the plane.
Oddly enough, none of us had ever made perogies from scratch before. I think we had all helped others do so, but had never been in charge of the recipe before. This version comes from Sandi's family, and is a Schmunk-Kilby family recipe. I have adapted the original, very brief instructions slightly to provide more information based on our session.
Please note that there is mashed potato in both the dough and the filling. We used a total of 12 medium potatoes to make the whole recipe, and cooked them up in the morning, so that they would be cooled enough to make into dough in the afternoon. The perogies were cooked up for breakfast the next day, which is why we are all wearing different clothes - it wasn't that messy an endeavour.
This post has two unusual features, compared to my usual blog style: First, not all of the photos in this post are from Always In The Kitchen -- photos marked ©Rodney Gitzel were taken by Rodney or Sandi, and are used with permission. Second, I think this may be the first time I'm actually appearing in this blog (other than as a disembodied hand); that's me in the glasses.
Yield: 6 dozen
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups mashed Russet potatoes (cold or room temperature)
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil and salt together until smooth, and then add the mashed potatoes, combine, and then stir in the flour until it becomes a soft dough. Cover and let stand (room temperature is fine) for 1 1/2 hours. We used a ricer to "mash" the potatoes, which gave them a very nice texture. While the dough is resting, you can make up the fillings (see below).
When ready to roll out the dough, divide it in half, keeping half covered while working with the rest. Use sufficient flour on your work surface so that you can lift the eventual individual circles of dough without distorting their shape (we learned that one the hard way). If the dough starts sticking, sprinkle it with more flour as needed (it was a fairly hot, sticky day, so we needed the extra flour).
Roll out the first portion of dough to about the thickness of a flour tortilla, and use a floured glass to cut out the circles. We used small (emptied, cleaned, of course) Nutella glass cups, which I estimate yielded about two-and-a-half inch diameter circles of dough. Fill each little circle of dough with a tablespoon of filling, folding and pinching the edges to make the classic half-moon shape. Place the formed perogy on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and repeat until you've cut out (and filled) as many circles as possible, and then gather up the scraps of dough into a ball and re-roll them, repeating until all of the dough has been used. The last perogy may be a bit mutant looking, but that's okay. Be sure to lay the finished perogies out in a single layer, and leave a little space between each perogy, so that they don't stick together. The perogies might look a bit irregular or downright messy to begin with, but as you get the hang of it, they will look more uniform. Even the oddly shaped ones ones will be delicious though, so keep going.
Apparently, the perogy dough needed to be subdued at one point, which Sandi handled nicely. We took turns rolling out the dough, just so we could all see and feel the texture of the dough.
Once all of the perogies are formed, you can cook them immediately, refrigerate them, or freeze them for future use. If you want to freeze them, freeze them in a single layer on a sheet or plate until hard, then transfer them to a freezer bag, seal and date.
6 large potatoes (russet)
Cottage Cheese and potato
If you cooked all of the potatoes together, you'll be using all of the remaining mashed potatoes left over from making the dough in the filling. We divided the potatoes in half here, so that we could make both of these classic fillings. There are many other fillings you can make as well (I'm quite partial to potato and onion, for example, or you could forgo the potatoes entirely for stewed fruit, such as cherries or blueberries).
For the cottage cheese and potato version, we used about two cups of cottage cheese, and added a pinch of salt, and mixed them together. Very quick!
For the potato, bacon, and cheddar version, we fried up some of Rodney's home-smoked bacon, and then finely minced it so that there wouldn't be big pieces that would poke through the soft dough. There was about a cup of finely chopped bacon and about a cup-and-a-half to two cups of coarsely shredded cheddar. Stir into the mashed potatoes just to combine, and it's ready to go. You can of course vary the proportions as you see fit.
Drop a dozen or so perogies (don't overcrowd the pot) into a large pot of gently boiling water and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Perogies will float when cooked. Serve immediately or give them a quick toss in a skillet with butter and onions (and/or bacon). If necessary, place in a (buttered) baking dish in an oven preheated to 200 degrees F. and keep warm until ready to eat.
We had ours with Manitoba Mennonite sausage cooked on an outdoor grill before adding to the pan, onions, butter, and more of Rodney's home-smoked bacon.
That's a fine afternoon's labour, right there.
December 07, 2013
I enjoy walking through supermarkets, especially when I am in a different food culture. There is a lot of information inherent in the selections available in each market, and even in the variety of markets themselves. Within a couple of weeks in my new town, I had determined a hierarchy of local markets in terms of the quantity and quality of items on offer, as well as the focus of each market - whether it offers more or less in the way of products especially formulated for the health-conscious shopper (such as organic foods, vegetarian or vegan options), or if it emphasizes volume/bulk purchasing, or rock bottom pricing (or any combination of those things).
There are the obvious benchmarks - how much shelf space is dedicated to fresh food, to snack food, sweet or savoury treats, whether or not alcohol is available in the markets (here in Germany one can purchase wine or beer in any grocery store or even the tiny corner market), and then there's the really interesting benchmark of ready-to-eat or heat-and-serve meals.
I immediately came face to face with the dominating presence of lentil stew, or Linseneintopf (also sometimes called Linsentopf). There are an astonishing array of brands from which to choose your lentil stew: in cans (of various sizes), in plastic, microwavable tubs (just peel off the lid), and in clear plastic chubs (snip and pour). You can get standard or organic, with or without sausages, in vegetarian, vegan, poultry, or meat. If you want meat sausages, you can choose between ones with mettenden, bockwurst, wieners, or any number of other meaty bits. No matter how exclusive or low-rent the supermarket is, you will find plenty of lentil stew options for your perusal.
Once I realized how prevalent (if not pervasive) this dish is here, my next stop was the bookstore. Of course, bookstores aren't usually big on the canned goods, and here is no exception, but bookstores do have cookbooks. The cookbooks touting local cuisine, or having names that suggest "Grandma's Kitchen" or tag lines "comfort food" or "childhood favourites" all contained recipes for lentil stew. The most surprising thing is how similar the recipes are. Apart from the wildcard of which lentil (or combinations of lentils) to use, I've really only encountered one truly heterodox iteration - "red" (rote linseneintopf), which includes tomato paste and/or diced tomatoes. I don't think the schism is as significant as the American "clam chowder divide" but I have yet to encounter any strong opinions on the subject.
I've only tried one of the supermarket offerings - it was very salty, which is a common failing of heat and serve foods everywhere, but particularly problematic here, if only because there sadly does not appear to be any labelling requirement for salt. Some products seem to include the salt value, but it is by no means universal. Still, other than the saltiness, I liked the dish quite a bit, so I decided to pursue the recipe. After a lot of label-reading and recipe reviewing, I went with a fairly simple recipe that combined the best elements of the various iterations I discovered. It's very simple, and reasonably quick
Linseneintopf - German Lentil Stew
Serves 4 (makes approximately 10 cups)
250 grams dry brown lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
2 medium carrots, diced small
3/4 cup diced-small celeriac (or celery)
2 bay leaves
pinch of marjoram
4 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth, or water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small
pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon vinegar, or more to taste (I used white wine vinegar)
2 sausages, diced (I used bockwurst)
Fresh parsley (optional)
Wash and pick over the lentils. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, celeriac and carrot briefly. When onion turns translucent, add the bay leaves, marjoram (you can substitute oregano if need be) and pinch of salt. If you are using water instead of broth, increase the salt to a half teaspoon. Add the (washed, drained) lentils, the broth (or water), and bring to a bare simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Stir, add the diced potatoes, and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (use a fork to test). Add the sausage, and continue to cook until the sausage is heated through. Stir in the vinegar to taste, and if necessary, add a small pinch of sugar to balance the flavours. Finish with with freshly ground black pepper and minced fresh parsley. Serve with bread.
This stew was very hearty, satisfying, and delicious, and is going into our rotation.