This is my most treasured recipe. Growing up, on every Christmas Eve, my grandparents (nannie and pop pop) would turn their kitchen into a pierogi making factory. Every year I got to either watch or help. My nannie would always remind me to roll the dough a little thinner, patting it with her soft and strong hand, and my pop pop, whose job was to pinch them closed, would complain about the dough not being right. And every year they turned out perfect.
My nannie was the head cook for an elementary school for almost her entire life – she retired in her early 80’s. She could make food for an army without even thinking about it. I have such wonderful memories of her in her kitchen cooking for us and making everyone happy.
I am giving you this recipe directly from the little white paperback cookbook published in 1974 by the cooks of her school district, Parkland School District. I always end up with tons of extra potatoes so consider halving the amount the recipe calls for.
And you can obviously deviate from the potato-cheese constraints that the original calls for. I just can’t bring myself to do so, because they are so perfect as they are. And as I will always remember them.
I also got a dumpling maker a few years ago and it is a huge time saver. Before that we used a glass cup that was just the right size to cut the dough and then pinched the dough together by hand. Make sure it is completely sealed when doing so – my pop pop always made two passes pinching it.
This is a perfect snow day/cold day/Sunday activity. I have started having my kids help me every year with them – I give them little piles of dough and little rolling pins and have them go at it (with the assumption that dough will be unusable – but it keeps them involved!).
I would have given you finished dish pictures but this was our christmas eve dinner and it just didn’t feel right pulling the camera out. But if you make them, send me one of yours!
- 7 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups potato water (when you boil the potatoes, put a large bowl under the colander when you drain them and save the water)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2-5lb bags of organic russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (I always just do 1-5lb bag but this is what original has written)
- 2 lb american cheese (or any other combination of cheeses you want – american cheese is what we always used – the recipe calls for 1 lb of longhorn and 2 lb of sharp cheddar)
- salt and pepper
- Onions – chopped and sautéed slowly in an inappropriate amount of butter – lots (my ad lib of the recipe – they suggest adding the onions sautéed into the potato mixture but we always kept them separate and served them swimming in butter and onions)
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, add salt, and then make a well in the middle and add the eggs. Mix flour and eggs together with a fork.
- Slowly add potato water (so you have had to make the potatoes before this step), still utilizing the fork to combine everything. Once you have all the water in, take it out onto the counter and knead until soft and dry – about 10 minutes. Turn bowl over on top of dough and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Potatoes: I usually do these the night before. Boil peeled and cubed potatoes. Once tender and ready to drain, set up a large bowl under a strainer to catch the potato water. Drain potatoes, when bowl is filled up, pull it out and continue to drain.
- Put potatoes back in pot and use a hand masher or hand mixer to mash them. Do not add milk, butter or anything like that. Only slices or shreds of cheese and salt and pepper. Taste and season as you add.
- Roll out dough to 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. Cut into rounds using glass or doughnut cutter. Put 1 Tablespoon of potato filling on each and seal (wet on side of dough edge to help seal it).
- When you are about halfway through the dough bring some water to boil and start simultaneously cooking the ones you made and continue to make new ones. Boil them for 5 minutes or until they float to top. Handle carefully. Scoop out with slotted spoon or something like that and put on a cutting board or something similar. When they are dry on one side, turn. When cool, you can lay them flat in ziploc bags- not stacked on each other – and freeze. Or to serve, fry some onions in butter and then pop these little darlings into the pan and pan fry until they get a little color.