I have a very specific set of criteria in order for something to qualify as winter comfort food in my book. It must include a starch of some kind (potatoes, bread, or pasta are all wonderfully acceptable), it must include cheese (because there is nothing I find more solace in during the cold winter months then cheese and chocolate actually, I find solace in them every month), and it must be able to be eaten with just a fork (or your hands). Only a handful of meals fulfill all my requirements, most notably mac-n-cheese and grilled cheese but, when I am craving something a little less all-American, I turn to the pierogi. The pierogi is a glorious things - a bread like dumpling shell that encases a cheesy potato filling. It's the epitome of all that is warm and cozy and right in this world. There are many fancy versions out there, ones that are filled with creme fraiche and caramelized onions but I prefer (for once in my life) the classic version (or classic to me traditionally they have a cream cheese filling mixed with the potatoes but the sharp cheddar is really wonderful.) These are perfect on a cold winter evening when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and catch up on some bad TV (and comfort food should always be eaten while watching bad TV.)
Potato and Cheese Pierogi
Recipe via King Arthur Flour
This dough is incredibly easy to work with which makes this a wonderful project for a Sunday afternoon.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream (I found I needed a little more to bring the dough together)
¼ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup warm mashed potatoes
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
1 - 2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced or thinly sliced (I prefer diced)
Sour cream and/or applesauce (optional)
To make the dough: Mix together the flour and salt. Add the egg to the flour and combine. The dough will be quite lumpy at this stage. Work in the sour cream and soft butter until the dough comes together in a slightly rough, slightly sticky ball. (If it doesn’t come together add a little more sour cream.)
Using just your fingertips, knead and fold the dough until the dough becomes less sticky but still quite moist. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 – 60 minutes, or up to 48 hours.
To make the filling: Combine the warm mashed potato and cheese. Stir and mash until the cheese is melted and the filling is cool to the touch. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
To fill the pierogi: Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick (if you don’t have enough counter space you can do ½ the dough at a time). Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut circles of dough. Place 2 teaspoons of filling on each round of dough. Gently fold the dough over, forming a pocket around the filling. Pinch the edges of the pierogi to seal. Continue with the rest of the rounds of dough. You can save the scraps, they can be snipped into small pieces and added to soups.
At this point the pierogi can be frozen up to 4 weeks, or refrigerated overnight, or cooked in a large stockpot of boiling salted water. Only cook about 10 at a time so that they have room to float without sticking. When the pierogi float (about 7 minutes), they’re done.
Sautee the onion in the oil in a large skillet until the onion begins to brown. Add the drained pierogi and cook until browned and crisped. Serve hot with additional sour cream and applesauce if you choose.