Last week I kept thinking about dumplings (of the filled pasta variety, not the doughy blob variety). Then as I walked around the farmers market smelling the bunch of ramps in my tote bag I started thinking about how delicious they would be mashed with the potatoes that were also in my bag. On my way home I stopped into the grocery store to pick up a few things and the packages of delicious Brooklyn-made pierogies caught my eye. I thought about buying them but then quickly remembered the bag of potatoes I was already walking around with and thought better of it. That was really enough potatoes for one week.
It wasn’t till half an hour later that I put all these thoughts together. I could make my own pierogies filled with my mashed potatoes and ramps! I really didn’t know the first thing about making pierogies but the fact that I am mistaken for a native speaker of Polish every time I set foot in Greenpoint gave me just enough confidence to proceed.
For the dough:
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- about a 1/4 cup sour cream
Start with 1 1/2 cups of flour. Spread the flour on a large board like a big, shallow crater. You basically want to make a shallow bowl with a rim of flour about an inch high, so that you can put the eggs in the middle and they won’t run all over the place. Crack the eggs into the middle and add the sour cream. Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs with the sour cream, just to break the yolks and blend the eggs with the sour cream a little bit.
Now here’s the fun part. Make sure your hands are nice and clean. Put the tips of the fingers of one hand in the egg and start moving in a circle. Just keep going round and round with your finger tips. You’ll slowly start to pick up flour and the egg mixture will start to get thicker. Go easy in the beginning. You don’t want the egg mixture to break free from the wall of flour and run right off the board and on to the floor. Use your other hand to push the flour back in toward the middle if it starts to spread outward. Once the egg mixture gets considerably thicker you can be a little more aggressive about working the flour in. Once most of the flour is incorporated you can switch to more of a kneading action. Work the flour into the dough (adding more if necessary) until you have a nice, smooth, slightly sticky dough. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Set aside to rest a little while.
For the filling:
- 1 pound small potatoes such as yukon gold or fingerlings
- 1 bunch of ramps
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Place the whole potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile finely chop the bulbs and stems of the ramps. Chop up the ramp greens separately. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet and add the stems and bulbs. Add a little salt and cook over medium heat until soft. Add the greens and continue cooking until greens are soft and bulbs are golden brown. When the potatoes are done drain completely and mash them up. Add the ramps and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the filling cool down at least to room temperature before you start assembling the pierogies.
Lay out a clean towel and lightly sprinkle it with flour. Set out a small bowl of cold water and another small bowl of flour. Now cut off a small hunk of dough and re-wrap the rest of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. If the dough is very sticky work a little more flour into it to make it easier to manage. Run it through the pasta maker starting with the thickest setting and progressing down to the 4th or 5th setting. You want the dough to be fairly thin, but sturdy enough that it won’t easily tear. Dust the dough with more flour as you go if it’s too sticky. Alternately you can roll the dough out on a well floured surface with a rolling pin.
Lay the dough on the towel and cut into roughly three inch squares. Actually you’re supposed to cut it into circles, but you really need something very sharp to cut it with. The rim of a glass is not going to work. So cut the dough into three inch circles or squares. Place about a heaping teaspoon of the potato filling in the middle of the piece of dough. Don’t use too much. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and wet a quarter inch border around the edges of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal. Make sure its completely sealed all the way around. If you’re using squares of dough, at this point you can trim the excess dough from the edges to create the traditional half moon shape if you want. A pizza cutter works well for this. The scraps can be gathered up and rolled out again. Lay the finished pierogies out in a single layer on the towel. Don’t let them stick together. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bring pot of water to a boil and drop the pierogies in. They just take a couple minutes to cook. When they float to the top they’re done. You can eat them just like this or pan fry them. Serve with sour cream and sauteed onions.