Tuesday, October 9, 2012

National Perohi Day!

If you are unfamiliar with perohi (not to be confused with piroshki, which are also delicious, but different) you have my sympathy.  I first encountered this glorious food when I was about ten years old and made a batch with my mother and grandmother.  My mom says that when she was a kid, the ladies at their Russian Orthodox church in Ohio would make hundreds of them every Friday.  I, on the other hand, had only encountered them in my own kitchen until I was 30 or so.  Throughout my life I've met people, mostly of Polish ancestry, who knew about them, but only a few have been motivated to cook them.  They're similar to ravioli - tedious and time-consuming to make, but so tasty it's hard to stop eating them.  I have eaten my way to a bellyache more than once, only to realize that I spent all day in the kitchen and barely had enough left for lunch the next day.

At work this afternoon I discovered that it was National Perogi Day, and immediately I knew what I'd be doing tonight.  About halfway through the process, I decided I should share the recipe.  This recipe makes about 80 pieces.  The whole process took me 3 hours tonight, but I've had lots of practice.  Try it when you have plenty of time if you've never done it before.

For the Dough:                                    For the Filling:
4 cups flour                                          8 large potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 /1/2 cups potato water                       8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs                                                  2 Tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt                                   salt to taste

For serving:
1/2 cup butter
2 large yellow onions, diced

In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and add a few shakes of salt.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until tender, roughly 10 minutes (depending on how big your chunks are).  When the potatoes are done,  reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water and refrigerate it - you will use this in the dough.  Drain the rest of the water.  Mash the potatoes and add the butter.  Add the cheese a handful at a time and mash to incorporate.  Salt to taste.  Chill until ready to use.

When the filling has cooled enough to handle, roll it into balls a little smaller than a quarter, and set them aside.  This is a great job for kids who want to help!  It's okay if the size varies a bit - the size of your dough pieces will vary a bit too, and you can always modify them as you go if necessary.
Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper, then dust with flour.  Set aside.

In your largest skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and stir to coat.  Reduce the heat to low when the onions begin to brown, then continue to cook until they are a uniform golden brown, stirring occasionally.  If they are done before you're ready for them, just remove them from the heat - you can reheat them later.  It's a good idea to turn on the fan over your stove and/or open your windows, unless you want your whole house to smell like onions the next day.

Fill a large pot with salted water as you would for pasta and bring it to a boil while you make the dough.  

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Make a well in the flour and add the eggs and cooled potato water.  Stir with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour.  The dough will be very sticky.   Liberally flour a smooth counter top or cutting board.    Rub flour on your hands, then knead the dough until elastic but still a little tacky, 5-10 minutes. The dough will absorb more flour (about a half cup or so) as you knead. 

Cut the dough into four equal pieces.  Roll each into a ball, and place three of them on a floured spot (plate/counter/bowl/frisbee) and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out while you roll out the first dough ball.

Dust the counter with flour, then roll out the first ball, starting from the center and working toward the edges.  The dough will stretch and then shrink, and progress will be slow at first.  Make sure the dough isn't sticking to the counter. If it sticks, lift the edges and toss a little more flour under the dough.  If it sticks to the rolling pin, rub a little bit of flour on the rolling pin.  You don't want to get too much flour on the top surface of the dough - it will keep your perohi from sealing properly, and all of your lovely cheesy potato goodness will leak out in the water when you cook them.  Keep rolling until you have a thin, even sheet about 1/8" thick.

A rectangle will be easier to work with than a circle, but don't sweat about the shape.  Cut the dough into roughly 2" squares.  You will stretch the dough a bit as you fill the perohi, so if your shapes are a little wonky around the edges, that's fine.

 Take a square of dough and carefully stretch it a little bit, holding it along its opposite edges.  Place a ball of potato in the middle, and fold the dough in half over the filling.  Pinch the edges of the dough together, making sure the entire edge is sealed.   If the dough sticks to your fingers, rub a little flour on them, taking care not to get any in the seal.
Lay the perohi on the prepared sheet pans in a single layer so that they do not touch or overlap.  Anywhere they rub elbows, they will stick together, and that will be bad news later. 

At this point, you can put the sheet pan in the freezer and save your perohi for a cold winter's night.  If you're going to freeze them, leave them on the pan until they're completely frozen (about 2 hours), then remove them from the pan, put them in a freezer bag, and squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing the bag.
Drop one pan of the perohi (about 24) into the boiling water one at a time, making sure they are in contact with the water when you let go of them - otherwise they will splash boiling water on you, which is no fun at all, or they will stick together, which is even worse.   Stir the pot gently with a wooden spoon to separate any perohi that might be stuck together or on the bottom of the pot.
Return the pot to a boil, then cook for 3-4 minutes.  Meanwhile, remove half of the browned onions from the skillet and set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and melt over medium-low heat.  When the perohi are done, remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon (being very gentle so they don't tear!) a few at a time and put them directly into the warm butter and onions.  Toss to coat with the butter and cook for as long as you can stand to wait.  I like it when they get a little crispy, but I'm not usually patient enough to wait that long.

Many people serve the perohi with applesauce and sour cream, but I'm happy with them just like this.

Sit down and enjoy a small plate of perohi before you finish cooking the rest of the batch.  You've earned it.  If you eat too many and get all lethargic, just freeze the uncooked perohi as instructed above, and put the remaining onions and butter in the fridge and reheat them when you're ready for more.

Store cooked leftovers in a thin layer - if you don't they will stick together and become a big solid mass that will break apart when you reheat them.  They'll still taste good though.

No comments:

Post a Comment