“What is your favorite thing to cook?” As someone who cooks in front of live audiences for a living I am constantly asked this question. My answer? “What I haven’t cooked yet.” I love trying new recipes, new ingredients and new cuisines. I like eating them too which makes browsing through the local restaurant menu photos on the Menupoly so much fun. I am constantly discovering something new to eat and being inspired in the kitchen.
However, if my favorite thing to cook is what I haven’t cooked yet, my favorite thing to eat is a dumpling, and December is a month filled with them. For our annual holiday party in DC we make hundreds of shumai, the open-topped Chinese dumplings filled with pork. I use that same pork filling to make guotie, or potstickers, with my niece and nephew as a snack on Christmas day. The dumplings I most look forward to though are the ones we eat on Christmas eve.
My family is Polish by heritage and each Christmas eve we eat a dinner that includes fish, cabbage and lots and lots of pierogi. They can be filled with potato and cheese, cabbage or prunes and apricots, but each boiled dumpling is browned in butter and onions and served piping hot.
Where do we get these pierogi? We make them. Making dumplings by yourself gets a bit tedious, which is why, just like the Chinese for the Lunar New Year, we gather family together to share time, laughter and lighten the work.
What food traditions does your family share each year? Whether they involve dinner out or cooking together at home may the holidays bring you great joy and delicious meals shared with those you love.
Potato Pierogi – Polish dumplings
For the potato filling I make a slightly drier version of mashed potatoes. You can freeze any extra cooked pierogi for the perfect snack after a winter day spent outside. Just brown them in butter and then add a cup of water to the pan and cover cooking until warmed through.
2 cups flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup water
2 medium Russet potatoes
4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, diced
4 tbs créme fraîche
4 tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
- Make potato filling: Add potatoes to a large saucepan. Cover by 2″ with water and bring to a boil. Cook until easily pierced through with a knife.
- Meanwhile, Melt 2 tbs butter in a 10” skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
- When potatoes are cooked press them through a food mill or ricer. Stir in the browned onions and butter along with the crème fraîche. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least an hour until firm.
- Make dough: Mix together flour and egg. Starting with ¼ cup water, add 2 tbs as needed until dough comes together and is slightly sticky. Knead dough until smooth and springy, about 5-6 minutes. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Roll 1/2 dough out to 1/8”. Cut with 4” biscuit cutter, fill with 1-2 tbs filling and press closed with your fingers, then seal decoratively with the tines of a fork.
- Boil the pierogi until they float, about 3 minutes. You can prepare the them ahead of time up to this point. Just toss in a little melted butter to keep from sticking together
- To serve, melt butter in a 12” skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook about 10 minutes beginning to brown. Add pierogi and brown on one side while warming through.
Jonathan Bardzik is a storyteller, cook, speaker and author based in Washington, DC. Jonathan believes life can and should be lived well, a goal within reach every single day by preparing a simple meal and sharing it with the people we love. You can find more recipes, videos and Jonathan’s cookbooks at JonathanBardzik.com. Discover what he’s up to each day by following him on Instagram @JonathanBardzik.