There’s a stretch of 2nd Ave. in the East Village with a string of old-school Polish joints, still in avid competition over who makes the best potato pierogi. We’re talking expertly folded pockets of potatoes, boiled, then fried with onions. Here’s how to make your own piece of Little Poland, as New York a dumpling, in its own way, as Chinatown dim sum.
This post is part of the Eating New York series.Yum
Pierogi are among the most comforting of New York eats, served late into the night over on 2nd Ave., by many a dive bar. Made throughout Eastern Europe, with many regional variations, the version you’ll find in the East Village is decidedly Polish, generally stuffed with ordinary yellow potato, though sweet potato makes an occasional appearance, this being New York, after all.
Making dough for potato pierogi
Pierogi dough is easy to make and cooperative to work with. It forms a stiff dough that ends up stretchy and smooth.
I mix it by hand in a large, flat-bottomed kneading bowl. Like Italian pasta dough, I think this would also work in a food processor, though I haven’t tried it. There’s not enough dough to work with the hook attachment of a stand mixer, though, I suspect.
Making classic potato pierogi filling
Pierogi filling is a humble affair, and yet the combination of mashed potatoes and deeply-caramelized onion bits its kind of sublime. The onions get pretty finely minced and browned in a relatively large amount of oil, but this goes towards flavoring the potatoes as well. After reserving about a third of the onions for serving with the finished pierogi, you’ll combine the seasoned onions with mashed potatoes and stir in an egg yolk. The result is creamy, umami potato filling.
Pierogi are typically shaped by folding circles. You’ll need fairly large circles, like a biscuit cutter size, or you can also use a drinking glass. After filling, the circles are folded into half-moons and the edges crimped.
I remember 2nd Ave. pierogi specifically having an edging that looks like a twisted rope. I of course set out to replicate it, and it’s surprisingly easy to accomplish.
You start out by folding the filled circle in half, beginning to pinch it closed at the center:
Pinch both sides from the center tightly closed; the dough should easily stretch around the filling and adhere to itself:
See the little point formed by the uncrimped edge below? It looks like a little triangle. All you do to form the rope is take that little point and tuck it down:
When you reach the end, tuck the last little point around the bottom of the pierogi:
Pierogi are boiled (like ravioli), and then usually fried briefly in oil with the reserved onions to crisp them slightly (like potstickers). The traditional accompaniment is sour cream, but these are parve and go well with meat meals too.
Potato Pierogi (parve)
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 Tbsp water
- 2 medium yellow potatoes
- 2 medium onions
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white or black pepper
Start the filling:
- Set a pot of water to boil. Peel and cube the potatoes, then add them to the pot. Finely mince the onions and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil over a medium flame. Let them brown while you mix the dough.
Make the dough:
- In a large mixing bowl or the stand mixer, combine all the dough ingredients. Stir until combined, then knead until the dough is elastic and stiff. Set aside to rest while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
- When the potatoes are fork tender, mash well. Add half the sautéed onions to the mashed potatoes, leaving the other half in the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, if using. Add the egg yolk and mix well, until creamy.
Shape the pierogi:
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, as thin as you can get it. Cut out circles about 3“ / 8 cm in diameter. Reroll and cut out more, rolling the last bits of dough into a ball and rolling it out.
- Pick up one circle and gently tug on it to loosen up the dough. Fill with 1 teaspoon of the potato (or other) filling. Fold the circle in half and pinch the center of the semicircle. Then, pinch along each side. Further crimp the edge by folding or with the tunes of a fork.
- Freeze the shaped pierogi on a lined sheet pan for 15 minutes or more.
Cook the pierogi:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Gently place the chilled or frozen pierogi in the boiling water. Cook until tender and floating, then carefully lift out with a spider strainer.
- Reheat the skillet with the remaining onion over medium heat. Add the boiled pierogi to the skillet and toss with the onion, crisping them if desired.