Philly Cheesesteak, Meet Dumpling: Introducing the Cheesesteak Pierogi

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Beef and cheese, famous as a sandwich, but also tasty wrapped in dough. [Photographs: Morgan Eisenberg]

As someone who has spent my whole life in the greater Philadelphia area, I'm most content when there's a big, greasy Philly cheesesteak sandwich full of thinly shaved steak, sweet onions, and melted cheese in front of me. So much so that when I'm not frequenting local cheesesteak joints,* I'm dreaming up new ways to incorporate those components into all sorts of other things. I've made cheesesteak potato skins, cheesesteak calzones, and cheesesteak stuffed mushrooms that were positively overflowing. But my favorite of them all was cheesesteak pierogi.

* If you're in Philly, be sure to check out our guide to the best cheesesteak sandwiches.

It's a creation that takes many cues from classic cheesesteak cookery, but I've made some tweaks here and there. For instance, instead of quickly frying the onions, which is how most cheesesteak shops do it, I slowly cook the alliums so that they caramelize, bringing out much more of their sweetness. Half of them go into the filling, the other half are added as a topping later.

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The steak, on the other hand, does follow cheesesteak canon: It's sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over high heat. If it takes more than a minute to cook through, then the steak is too thick. Freezing the steak first can help you get thinner slices, though you can also just ask the butcher or the meat cutter at your local grocery store to shave it for you.

And just like for a good cheesesteak, I chop the meat after cooking to make sure there are no large pieces—a step that is arguably even more important for a dumpling filling. To finish the filling, I just mix together the chopped cooked meat, onions, and a mixture of shredded provolone and mozzarella, which together give a great combination of both flavor and gooey meltiness. If you're a purist, you can omit the mozzarella and just use extra provolone in its place. I'm not wedded to that level of tradition, but I put my foot down with Cheez Whiz: It's a no-go here.

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As for the dough, I take a trick from the Pittsburgh-style pierogi rulebook by adding sour cream to it. While it may not be the traditional way pierogi dough is prepared in Poland, the sour cream improves the dough's texture, making it more tender and helping prevent it from cracking or breaking when being rolled out.

I roll dough out, cut it into 3-inch circles, then place the filling in the center of each round. I brush the edges with water, folding each in half and pinching the seams together to seal. Use a fork to make decorative indentations along the edges.

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At this point, they can be frozen and saved for easy meals and snacks, or you can go straight to cooking them for dinner.

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To cook the pierogi, they first have to be briefly boiled. After a few minutes of gentle boiling, I drain them and then cook them in butter until browned. Just before they're done, I toss in the reserved caramelized onions to heat them through.

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Bite into one to reveal a pocket of juicy steak and sweet onions coated with melted cheese. I'm pretty sure even the most devoted cheesesteak enthusiast will approve.

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