Why It Works
- Drying the cooked potatoes in a saucepan on the stovetop removes excess moisture, allowing for a full-flavored filling that isn’t too loose.
- Sour cream and egg gives the dough richness and extensibility, making it easy to roll out by hand, while high-protein all-purpose flour lends it just the right amount of chew.
- An optional pan-frying step lends the pierogi a crispy shell that complements the creamy potato-and-cheese filling.
When I was living and cooking in restaurants in Chicago, one of my go-to day-off routines was to walk a few blocks from my apartment in Logan Square to catch a movie at the Logan Theatre, then walk north on Milwaukee Avenue to stop in for a plate of pierogi at Staropolska Restaurant, before swinging back around to pick up some more pierogi and meats at Kurowski Sausage Shop on my way home. The store-bought pierogi were always a clutch item to have in the fridge for a 2am midweek snack when I’d get home from a long night of service at the restaurant; boiling water for potato-and-cheese dumplings was the maximum amount of cooking effort I was willing to put in once I got home, although there were rare occasions when I felt particularly ambitious and busted out a skillet to crisp up the pierogi after boiling.
I eventually moved back to Boston, a pierogi desert, and was forced to subsist on frozen Mrs. T’s (no disrespect, I will devour a box of those any time) until I found my way to New York, and Serious Eats. Our visual director at the time, Vicky Wasik, would often, although not as often as I’d like, bring in batches of her mother’s homemade pierogi for office snacking. I was back in the game with a solid pierogi connection. Then quarantine happened, and working from home meant no more pierogi deliveries. I was on my own again, a little too far from the Polish neighborhood in Greenpoint and far enough from Veselka in the East Village that regular trips for varenyky (the Ukrainian term for pierogi) weren’t in the cards.
All this is to say that I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I’d need to learn how to make pierogi on my own. With the help of Vicky, and her mother by proxy, I have developed this recipe for potato-and-cheese pierogi. They are pretty darn good.
To make the filling, I combine boiled riced russet potatoes with butter, cooked onion, and farmer cheese. It’s important to evaporate as much surface moisture from the boiled potatoes as possible before ricing them, in order to keep the filling from getting too loose, which makes any dumpling filling a pain to work with.
For the dough, I opted for a high-protein all-purpose flour like King Arthur, which gives the wrappers just the right amount of chew and elasticity, without making the dough hard to roll out. Sour cream and egg also helps in this department, with the fat lending the dough enough extensibility by limited gluten development that it’s easy to roll out by hand after a short rest.
The extensibility and suppleness of the dough makes it easy to stretch and seal the wrappers around the filling as well, without the need for wetting or crimping the edges of each pierog. Just make sure to firmly pinch each dumpling closed for a tight seal, as you don’t want them blowing out when boiled or crisped at the end. Like other dumplings, pierogi freeze well, and the recipe can easily be broken into make-ahead steps (the filling, dough, and formed pierogi can all be made in advance) if you want to break up the process over the course of a couple of days.
As manageable as the process can be, I have to admit—I still wish I lived closer to a pierogi purveyor.
- For the Filling:
- 5 tablespoons (75g) unsalted butter, divided
- 1 large onion (10 ounces; 285g), finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground back pepper
- 1 pound (455g) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 ounces (170g) farmer cheese
- For the Dough:
- 12.5 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups; 355g) high-protein all-purpose flour, such as King Arthur (see note)
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt use half as much by volume or an equal amount by weight
- 8 ounces (1 cup; 225g) sour cream
- 1 large egg
- To Assemble and Finish:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, divided
- Sour cream, for serving
- Sliced chives, for serving (optional)
For the Filling: In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons (30g) butter over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30ml) of water at a time when onions begin to stick and threaten to scorch, until light golden-brown, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine potatoes, 2 quarts (1.9L) water, and 2 teaspoons (6g) salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender and offer little resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes, and return to now-empty saucepan. Set saucepan over low heat and cook, shaking constantly, until moisture has evaporated from potatoes, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Using a ricer or food mill, pass potatoes into a medium bowl. Using a flexible spatula, stir in remaining 3 tablespoons (45g) butter, and 1/2 cup (115g) of the reserved onion mixture; transfer remaining onion mixture to a small bowl for garnish. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in farmer cheese until thoroughly combined, cover, and set aside if making the pierogi right away, or refrigerate filling for up to 2 days.
For the Dough: Whisk together flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until thoroughly combined, at least 30 seconds. Add sour cream and egg, fit stand mixer with dough hook, and mix on medium-high speed until a smooth and elastic dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 6 to 8 minutes. Cover, and set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
To Assemble and Finish: While dough is resting, portion the potato filling. Using a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop 1 heaping tablespoon (1 ounce; 30g) portions of potato mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roll each portion between your palms to form a ball and set back on baking sheet. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with parchment, and dust lightly with flour; set aside.
Once dough is rested, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a roughly 18-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, punch out 24 rounds of dough. Place one portion of filling in the center of each round of dough. Working with one portion of dough at a time, fold dough over filling to form a half-moon while distributing filling to fit within it, firmly pinch edges to seal, and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining portions. Uncooked pierogi can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook half of the pierogi until dough is cooked through and filling is heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spider skimmer, transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pierogi. Boiled pierogi can be served as-is with reserved cooked onion and sour cream, or proceed to step 8 for pan-frying instructions.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon (15g) butter over medium-high heat until butter is foaming. Add enough pierogi to cover the bottom of the skillet in a single layer without crowding the pan, and cook, flipping occasionally, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. Repeat with remaining pierogi, adding remaining oil and butter as needed. Serve, passing sour cream, reserved onion, and chives (if using) at the table.
Ricer or food mill, stand mixer, 3-inch cookie cutter, rimmed baking sheets, large nonstick skillet
We often avoid King Arthur's all-purpose flour because of its higher-than-standard protein content relative to other brands of all-purpose flour. Here, though, it does its job perfectly. Take note, therefore, that substituting lower-protein all-purpose flour from other brands in this recipe may impact results.
Make-Ahead and Storage
This recipe can easily be broken into parts, with components that can be made in advance if you don't want to tackle the project from start to finish all at once. The filling can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Formed, uncooked pierogi can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Boiled pierogi can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.