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Even as I write the words, I can barely believe it: for the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates—a baseball team long considered a punchline and a write-off—not only have a winning record, but are headed to the playoffs. This is historic. This is epic. This is a time to make pierogies.
As we’ve previously discussed on Good. Food. Stories., Eastern European food is a major part of Pittsburgh’s culinary heritage; it’s a city where platters of grilled kielbasa and steaming aluminum trays of halupki are just as often to be found at tailgates and cookouts as hot dogs and coleslaw.
And though it’s common for major league ballparks to celebrate their cities’ popular foods and dishes with concession items like carne asada fries and crab dip-topped sausage sandwiches, the Pirates go one further. Sure, they feature the Pulled Pork Pierogi Stacker at Manny Sanguillen’s Familee Bar-B-Q—that’s a pretzel roll stuffed with pork that’s been smoked on-premises, then topped with potato pierogies and caramelized onions—but pierogies have an even bigger role at PNC Park.
After the fifth inning of every home game, the team celebrates the city’s love for the iconic dumpling with the one and only Pirates Pierogi Race. Four mascots—Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, Jalapeño Hannah, and Oliver Onion—sprint around the field as fast as their non-aerodynamic costumes will allow.
I have a hard time rooting for one pierogi over the other, since I’m a fan of all fillings represented in the race (as well as a fan of wacky mascot races in general); I find it more amusing to cheer for everyone and for the concept of racing foodstuffs as an accepted and beloved thing we do as part of watching America’s Pastime.
As for the actual team on the field, I’m hoping for the best but bracing for the worst: the Pirates may not make it past the Wild Card game on October 1, and of course I’ll be disappointed if that’s the end of the line for this phenomenal season. (Let’s not get started with the disappointment that is this year’s Steelers squad. Yoi and double yoi. Go Pens!)
No matter the postseason outcome, I’ll either need to drown my sorrows or steel my nerves with a plate of comforting carbs. And apart from a Primanti’s sandwich hot from the Strip District griddle, I can’t think of a better food for mourning/celebrating than pierogies. Everyone’s a winner here.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes about 2 dozen pierogies
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 cups (8 1/2 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Mashed Potato Filling Base:
- 1/2 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For Chester Cheese pierogies:
Add 1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese to the mashed potato base.
For Sauerkraut Saul pierogies:
Add 1/2 cup drained, chopped sauerkraut to the mashed potato base.
For Jalapeño Hannah pierogies:
Add 1 seeded, minced jalapeño and 1/4 cup finely shredded pepper jack cheese to the mashed potato base.
For Oliver Onion pierogies:
Add 1/2 cup chopped caramelized onions (from 1 yellow onion) to the mashed potato base.
For Cooking and Serving:
- egg wash made with 1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water
- unsalted butter
Make the pierogi dough:
Whisk the egg, sour cream, and butter together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Whisk the flour and kosher salt together in a large mixing bowl, then gently stir the reserved wet ingredients into the flour with a silicone spatula or silicone bowl scraper.
The dough will initially be very dry and shaggy; once it’s mostly incorporated, pat it into a ball and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth and shiny.
Place an overturned bowl over the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Make the filling:
Peel the potato(es) and cut into rough 1-inch cubes. Place in a small stockpot with enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and mash into a clean bowl with a potato ricer, food mill, or electric hand mixer.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream and the salt, then add the third tablespoon of cream if the potatoes are still too dry. The consistency should be firm enough to roll into a ball with your hands, not loose and batter-like.
Stir in any of the additional ingredients (cheese, sauerkraut, etc.) if desired.
Divide the rested dough into two equal pieces.
Re-flour the work surface and roll one piece out as thinly as possible, then use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut circles out of the dough.
Roll pieces of the filling into small 1-inch pieces similar in shape and size to gnocchi, and flatten them slightly between the palms of your hands.
Place each piece on one side of each dough circle, then brush the edges of the circle lightly with the egg wash.
Fold the dough over to make a filled half-moon pierogi, and pinch with your fingers to seal the pierogi shut.
Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
To cook immediately, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbling, then add pierogies in a single layer. Cook, flipping often, until the dough is crispy and brown. Repeat with additional butter and pierogies as needed.
Or you can freeze the pierogies in a single layer on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet for at least an hour until frozen through. Transfer to a freezer-safe container; the pierogies will keep for up to 3 months.
To cook frozen pierogies, boil them for a few minutes until they float (as you would tortellini or gnocchi), then drain well and sauté in melted butter as noted above.