I have a long and abiding love for pierogies. (See here for proof.) I have always eaten the frozen variety due to a woeful lack of old Polish grandmothers in my family. Strangely, it never occurred to me to make my own. I’m aware that ‘making your own’ is kind of my thing.
…and then a student in my international foods cooking class mentioned that she was interested in making Russian dumplings that were similar to pierogies. With the Olympics on twenty-four hours a day in my home, the proverbial light bulb went “BOINK” over my head. Duh.
“Let’s make some Russian pierogies!” I said to myself. (…And just like that a food blogger started an international incident.)
So I taught my classroom full of students how to make Vareniki: mashed potato filled dumplings. <
Let me tell you, I have loved the frozen pierogie world dearly, and I can promise they will still be on my table from time to time, but after having a go at making these Russian ones, I rather suspect that any mass produced ones will pale in comparison from here to eternity.
Because I chose to prepare my homemade dumplings the same way as I usually prepare frozen pierogies, I was able to make a pretty solid comparison in the differences between the final products. Homemade dumpling dough has a lightness of texture that is simply unmatched by its commercial counterparts. They’re not at all chewy or gummy, but airy. If you opt to pan fry them in butter after boiling, as I prefer to do, you’ll find the homemade Vareniki gets far crispier on the bottom, but remains light and pillowy over the un-fried portions.
- Yes. I call for a lot of butter and not much else in the mashed potato portion of the recipe. Butter is almost always dreadfully under-added in most mashed potatoes and the extra buttery potatoes make these Vareniki extra special.
- These mashed potatoes are also a bit thicker than your average mashed potatoes. This helps keep them from running out when sealing the vareniki and when cooking them! Besides, remember all that luscious butter?
- I shaped them in the Ukranian manner (fold the dumpling dough in half around the filling, seal into a half moon shape, then pull the bottom corners together to make it look like a giant tortellini. Those are my words. Not the Italians’. [International Incident #2] You can form them the Ukranian way or simply leave them in the half moon shape. It didn’t take that much extra time and I loved the look and texture of the final product the way I made it. You decide!
- After forming the Vareniki, you have a couple of options. You can lay them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet, cover them lightly with plastic wrap, and freeze until solid then transfer to a zipper top bag to stay frozen for up to three months.
- Oooooor, you can boil them immediately. You can stop there and serve them as is with sour cream and spicy tomato sauce in the traditional manner OR you can do what I do and fry them in scandalous amounts of butter (because we’ve already gone there, what’s a little more?)