Fact: if you grow up in West PA, you will have an unhealthy infatuation with all things potato and onion. This is doubly true if the most remarkable agricultural feature of your ancestral homeland is its barren earth (here’s looking at you, Central Europe).
I often describe my grandmother as being a crotchety old Serbian woman, which is true. She is. Despite being legally blind, the first thing she does when she sees you is insult your appearance. And not in a light, teasing way. No, she hurls insults with a particular, cutting finesse that only old people and children can manage.
It’s hilarious. She’s mean as hell. I want to be her when I grow up.
One thing she can never, and will never, understand is the whole vegan/vegetarian thing. It’s like that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where Paul Rudd (I don’t actually know if that was the main actor, I just refer to all 30-something average-looking white dudes with dark hair as Paul Rudd) says he’s vegetarian, and his future mother-in-law yells, “That’s okay, I’ll make lamb!”
My grandmother, bless the cold cockles of her calloused heart, refuses to eat salad. She says that only cows eat salad. This is what I’m up against, people.
But damn if that woman doesn’t make the best pierogi. If you don’t know what a pierogi is, what is your purpose? How do you live? Are you okay? Are you one of the Hollow Men, the stuffed men, leaning together, headpiece full of straw?
(I’ve been reading a lot of T.S. Eliot in light of the recent election)
Picture ravioli, but filled with cheesy potatoes and sitting on a bed of caramelized onions, with just enough garlic to ruin kissing for the rest of the day. Yeah.
I made vegan pierogi yesterday and tricked my whole family into thinking they were made with real cheddar cheese. Here is an actual thing I said to my friend:
I caramelized half a minced red onion and threw that into the filling with a block of Daiya cheddar cheese and two cloves of garlic, and then set the finished pierogi in a vat of caramelized red and white onions to really absorb the flavor. You can either boil or fry these suckers — personally, I do both. Boil them for a couple of minutes (until floating), then throw them into an oiled skillet until lightly browned on both sides.
Bonus points if you cook with cast iron. Not only does it look cool as hell, but your food also absorbs some of the iron, which is super important if you’re vegan.
Anyway: a pierogi for the Old Gal. Or, rather, about 50 pierogi. Feel free to alter the recipe so it makes less.
- 4 c. flour
- 1 1/4 c. warm water
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. salt
- 5 medium-sized potatoes
- 1 block (7 oz.) vegan cheddar cheese
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
Caramelized onion ingredients:
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/4 c. vegetable oil
- Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl, and knead until smooth. It should be kinda sticky.
- Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Cube potatoes, cover with water in a large pan, and boil covered for 20 minutes.
- While potatoes boil, cook the minced red onion in a skillet (or cast iron pan) with oil over medium heat for 7 minutes. Stir frequently. Add garlic, continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until onions are a rich amber color. Remove from heat.
- Drain potatoes, cube cheddar “cheese”, and add the cheese to the taters. Re-cover, allow cheese to steam-melt for five minutes.
- Add garlic and onions to potatoes, mash until smooth. Allow to cool.
Caramelized Onion instructions:
- In cast iron pan or skillet, heat oil on low. Add diced onions, cover, and let cook for fifteen minutes.
- Remove cover, raise heat to medium, and stir frequently until onions are a rich amber color (5-10 minutes). Place in deep casserole dish, or something.
The Final Form:
- Separate the dough into two parts. Cover one part in the bowl, and roll the other out on a floured baking surface. You want the dough to be about 1/8″ thick. If you don’t have a rolling pin, my friend Jess says a wine bottle will work in a pinch.
- Using the rim of a wine glass (there’s a theme here), cut the dough into circles with about 3-4″ in diameter.
- In the center of each circle, plop a teaspoon of room-temperature filling. Too much filling will make the pierogi explode, so be weary.
- Fold in half and squeeze the edges together tightly to prevent leaks. Continue doing this until you run out of dough, or filling, or both. You can freeze the pierogi until you’re ready to eat.
- Boil option: in a pot of boiling water, plop the pierogi. Remove when they float. We all float down here, and when you’re down here, Georgie, you’ll float too.
- Fry option: in an oiled skillet over medium heat, fry each side for about 3 minutes, or until light brown.
- C-c-c-COMBO: Boil for two minutes, then fry on each side for 2 minutes.
- Serve over caramelized onions.