National Pierogi Day > Christmas?

Okay okay…Maybe it’s not as great as Christmas but its pretty darn close..(I like presents n such…).

I tend to ONLY reserve pierogi making for Christmas dinner because they are such a pain in the butt.  However, someone at work managed to sneak into a conversation that Saturday October 8th was National Pierogi Day, and knew that I had my own recipe.  Since i’m a sucker for flattery – I offered to celebrate this holiday by making pierogis for the office I work at.  Which, im sure some of you know is a catering company..which is definitely intimidating to cook for!  Then again, when you have such a rock solid pierogi recipe like I do, what is there to worry about? *Brushes off shoulders* I got this.

In a past post I shared how important my Grandma was that passed away a few summers ago.  She would make pierogi every holiday, but only in small batches because they are so time consuming.  I was so jealous that everyone just loved these pierogi, I craved the attention she got for them.  In time, my grandma got bad arthritis and wanted to pass on the tradition to someone else.  I was ready and willing to be her pierogi apprentice!  I was only a kid, but I was eager to know the secrets.  She gave me a little drinking glass with Christmas decorations around it and told me –

“Danielle…This makes the perfect pierogi”. 

I still have that cup she gave me and I still use it to this day to make my pierogi.  If that glass broke I would be lost!  I did have help making pierogi this time around, and I did not force my pierogi pal to use my nostalgic cup for fear of the odd looks I would get.  I already fully confess I have OCD – but Im still in denial about being neurotic.

 

Perfect Pierogi Dough –

  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup lukewarm water (may need more, more need less, add slowly)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more..if youre like me..)
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Make a well in the middle of the flour just as you would make any Italian pasta dough.  Add salt.  Beat eggs with butter and add to flour well, add sour cream to the well also.  Pull in flour from the sides to start to combine flour, egg, butter, sour cream.  When the dough starts to crumble add the water until it forms a nice dough.  Dough should be soft and plyable.  It should not feel as smooth and dense as an Italian dough, it should be slightly tacky and I hesitate to use this term because Im sure only ill understand what I mean by it but it should feel “pillowy”..are you with me? Haha.  I know the sour cream seems like an odd addition, but ill explain! When I used to make pierogi with my grandma she would tell me to seal every pierogi I have to add flour and water to the edges for a perfect closure.  As I grew older I figured this step really stinks.  I found out that adding sour cream to the dough makes them close..plain and simple..just pinch shut and voila!  Im sure Grandma is turning over in her grave knowing I changed something.  Sorry!

As for the filling – this is when you can just get creative.  I am sorry, I love you all – however…I cannot share my filling recipe! It’s been in my family for some time and I plan to be a rich and famous super pierogi maker. Dont ruin my dreams.  I did fill half the pierogi with my Bigos filling though! It was absolutely delicious! I will share though that if you do feel like making potato cheese ones (my secret recipe) do not make the potatoes like you would mashed potatoes by adding any liquid what-so-ever.  Leave the poatoes thick and fairly plain, dont fuss with them too much! Potato + Cheese + Onion = Happy.

I swear I can eat this stuff by the gallons with just a spoon.

The one annoying thing about pierogi dough is when it rolls out you have to work quickly.  It tends to shrink in.  This does also means you’re arms will hate you the next morning.  Roll the dough out fairly thin, about 1/8 inch thick.  Theres two ways to do this.  The way I was taught is to roll the dough out pretty big, place a small dollop of filling and fold over an edge of dough and press it out with a nostalgic Christmas cup!  The other way is like making ravioli, stamp out circles to the desired size, add filling and then close.  I find that stamping out the dough first makes it harder to close them if you overloaded them accidently.  I find that making a large rolled out dough, folding, and then stamping is easier for me.  You can make about 4-5 pierogi in one set of rolled dough.  The good thing about this dough is you can reuse it and reuse it until its gone, no waste!

I place my pinched pierogi onto a cookie sheet and freeze them in bags of a dozen.  I usually do not cook pierogi the same day, this is usually something I make way in advance.  By the end of making pierogi, I do NOT feel like eating them!  If you feel like cooking them immediately, by all means do it! They do freeze very well though!  Another pierogi tip – When you boil the pierogi have a cooling rack ready.  Scoop the finished pierogi out (when they float, they are done) and set on the cooling rack to dry.  If you skip this step, they get tacky and stick together.  When they have cooled and are no longer ‘slimy’ add to a casserole dish.  Cut bacon into small lardons and saute until half cooked.  Pour the bacon over the top of the pierogi and bake at 350º for about a half hour.  The bacon fat will render down the pierogi which absolutely makes them PERFECT!  The edges get crispy and delicious.  I never pan fry my pierogi even though that tends to be a favored method.  Give it a try 😉

My finished Pierogi I brought to work.  The left is Bigos Pierogi topped with Smoked Sausage and the right is Potato Cheese topped with bacon.  They did not last long!

UFC Party – A flavorful punch in the mouth

I am a sucker for a themed dinner party.  It all started out as a joke, but then it just snowballed.  I was thinking of ideas for 24×24 and thought it would be a good idea to do a practice round of what I would do for a themed party.  My boyfriend and I are fans of the UFC.  Very un-ladylike I know.  We invited some pals over for our special dinner party and started brain storming.  I am a huge nerd when it comes to these types of parties, so maybe It got a little out of hand but it was fun none-the-less.

Here is a little side story just to explain a tid-bit of why I have been gone lately.  I was headed to the grocery store, list in hand, totally thrilled about the UFC party the next day.  I was about a quarter of a mile away to the grocery store sitting at a red light, when I got seriously rear ended.  A 16 year old girl slammed into me at 30mph when I was at a dead stop.  I was fine, my car was not.  I have spent weeks trying to battle with the insurance company, get a new car, dr visits for my neck and back.  All is well now, I have a new car, my back pain is improving and yes people…I still had my dinner party!

My poor car.

Okay side story over, back on track! I was very proud of my final menu.  If you are not aware of UFC, its ultimate fighter championship, so keep that in mind while reading my menu –

Knuckle Sandwiches – Crispy Chicken Sliders with Chipotle Mayo

Black & Bleu Beef Croistini – Beef Tenderloin Topped with a Bleu Cheese Mousse

Fried Cauliflower ‘Ears’ – Fried Cauliflower accompanied by Dill dipping sauce

Tap-Out Tater Tots – Crispy tater tots with sriracha ketchup

Dont Punch in the Nut-ella Rice Krispy Treats – Rice Krispy Treats blended with Nutella dipped in Chocolate Topped with Hazelnuts

Knuckle Sandwiches

  • 1/2 lb Chicken Breast pounded thin and cut into slider size
  • 1 cup buttermilk mixed with buffalo sauce
  • flour for coating
  • oil for frying
  • small tomato slices
  • small lettuce slices
  • mayonnaise
  • canned chipotles
  • Hawaiian Rolls
  1. Heat up oil for frying.  In the mean time, dip each chicken piece into buttermilk/buffalo sauce and then into flour.  Coat very well with flour.
  2. Fry each chicken piece until golden brown, set on paper towels to sop up excess oil.
  3. In a food processor combine mayo and chipotle peppers.  If desired, thin out with some cream.
  4. Build each sandwich on a sweet hawaiian roll top with tomato and lettuce, serve with chipotle mayo.

Fried Cauliflower Ears

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water

Dill Dip

  • Mayo
  • Sour Cream
  • Dill
  • Heavy Cream
  • Salt & Pepper

Combine all ingredients for batter, toss cauliflower until coated.  Fry in small batches.

Combine all ingredients for dip. Enjoy! (warning, very addicting!)

Dont Punch in the Nut-ella Rice Krispy Treats

  • 1 Box rice krispy cereal
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows
  • 1 jar nutella
  • 1/2 lb melted chocolate
  • Crushed hazelnuts for garnish

Microwave marshmallows, nutella, and butter.  In a big enough mixing bowl, dump entire box of cereal.  Once marshmallows and butter are melted completely, combine with rice krispys.  In cookie sheet with high sides, lay down wax paper.  Press in rice krispy mixture and let cool and harden over night.  The next day either use cookie cutters for desired shape or cut into cubes (pictured).  Dip each cube into melted chocolate and top with crushed hazelnuts.

The party was an absolute hit and I cannot wait for my next themed party.  I will steer clear of teenage girls on the road this time too.

Greek Night – Chicken Gyros & Baklava Parfaits

I have decided I don’t share nearly enough recipes as I feel I should.  There are some recipes I feel are too sacred to share, even though i’m sure most of them aren’t that big of a secret.  Tonight I wanted to make a healthy dinner but without feeling like I was missing out.  I decided to go with a Greek theme since there are so many flavorful ingredients from the Mediterranean.  The only catch is that I cannot have lemon juice.  I just wanted to share that beforehand since i’m sure many people will wonder why I left out such a key ingredient.

I pondered for a while what my menu should be.  I had some inspiration from my favorite local restaurant – Christy’s Pancake House.  My absolute favorite dish to get there is their Chicken Gyro.  It gives me the opportunity to have the convenience of eating out but still eating responsibly.  I figured I could save some money by learning how to make a rip off of my favorite dish.  I decided my menu would be Chicken Gyros, Greek potatoes, watermelon, and the real kicker was the dessert – Healthy Baklava.  I was very unsure of how the dessert would come out but I figured i’d wing it, if it turned out bad then nobody had to know about it!  I will apologize before hand – I never measure.  I can give you my ingredients but I always go by taste.

For the chicken gyros:

  • Ground Chicken
  • Chopped Garlic
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary (Finely chopped or put through a spice grinder)
  • Greek Oregano
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Red Wine Vinegar

I mixed up all the ingredients very well in a large bowl.  Do not skimp out on the spices, more is better.  Since I used ground chicken it takes a lot more seasoning to be delicious than using beef or lamb.  It does not take alot of red wine vinegar, probably only about 2 tablespoons for 1 pound of chicken.  I formed my meat into long oval pattys because I put them in a whole wheat pita rather than using a bun.  I sauteed my pattys in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil until seared on both sides and cooked throughout.  The garnish I used for my gyros were – tomato, red onion, lettuce, cucumber sauce (recipe follows)

For the Cucumber Sauce

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh Mint
  • 1 English cucumber finely diced
  • Sea Salt
  • Chopped Garlic
  • Red Wine Vinegar

Let this mixture sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors meld.

 

Greek Potatoes

  • 4-5 Baking Potatoes skins on, cut into wedges
  • Greek Seasoning
  • Olive Oil
  • Feta Cheese
  • Chopped Kalamata Olives

Cut potatoes into wedges, I cut mine into 8ths.  Toss the potato wedges in olive oil and Greek seasonings.  Bake the potatoes in a 400 degree oven until browned and cooked through.  After letting the potatoes come to room temp toss them in chopped Kalamata olives and feta cheese.  Add salt if needed but the feta and olive add more than enough.

Last but not least – DESSERT!

I was worried that I would not be able to post about this.  I was positive that this was not going to go very well.  I had googled Baklava Parfait in hopes that I could get some tips on what they used for the phyllo dough.  I didn’t find any hits – weird huh?  This made me really feel this would be a flop!  I decided to do it anyway, I’m a rebel like that.  I used things I had on hand mainly because I didn’t want to spend money on something that may be going straight to the garbage.  I had walnuts and brown sugar on hand.  I figured I could toss the walnuts in some butter and cover in brown sugar and toast in the oven until it gets caramelized.   I then took the Greek yogurt I had left over from the cucumber sauce and mixed in vanilla, loads of honey and cinnamon.  The phyllo was the stumper.  I knew it had to have a very buttery flavor or it would just not have the same flavor profile.  I found some 100 calorie pack Lorna Doone cookie packs.  Sure, why not.

I mixed up my yogurt, toasted my walnuts, crushed up my cookies and found a neat martini glass set my boyfriend had.  Believe it or not, It was incredible!  The toasted walnuts with brown sugar had that perfect gooey, caramel-ly goodness that real baklava had.  The yogurt had the perfect amount of sweetness, and the cookies had a great hit of buttery flavor I was hoping for.   This is what my big experiment ended up looking like –

Baklava Parfait

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Walnuts
  • Brown Sugar
  • Butter to coat
  • Sea Salt
  • Any type of butter or shortbread cookie, crushed

Mix yogurt, honey, cinnamon – refrigerate until ready to use

Coat walnuts in melted butter, toss in brown sugar and sea salt.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until brown sugar begins to melt and almost turn to brittle.  Let cool fully

Crush cookies

Find your favorite parfait glass layer cookie, yogurt, walnuts, a little squiggle of honey and repeat as much as you can.

Enjoy!