I am often asked: What is your favorite food? Although I always answer Japanese, the real response should be and is pierogi, the delectable Polish dumplings that my mother, Big Martha, made so well in many incarnations: potato, cabbage, blueberry, peach, plum, and apricot.
Everyone in our family was and still is crazy about these little boiled dumplings, concocted from a round of tender, plain dough. The half-moon shape is formed around a savory or sweet filling, carefully designed to delight the eater with a soft pillow of potato, a burst of sweet-tart blueberries, or a delicate apricot, pit removed and cavity filled with crunchy Demerara sugar and unsalted butter.
Pierogi with Blueberry Filling and Spiced Sour Cream
Pierogi with Cabbage Filling and Clarified Butter
Pierogi with Italian Plum Filling and Spiced Sour Cream
Pierogi with Potato Filling and Brown Butter
But since my mother passed away two years ago, I have only thought about her delicious pierogi and not made any, even though I worked very closely by her side several years ago, writing down her recipes so we would all have them forever.
It seems many of my colleagues also loved Mom's pierogi, and when I was asked to create this column for our April issue, I was very ready to oblige and very ready to eat some of each of my favorites.
Out of curiosity, I went online to check out other pierogi and was surprised to find more than two million results on Google for the term "pierogi recipe." Almost three times as many as for ravioli, the Italian stuffed-dough dumpling, but fewer than the 2.8 million results for wonton, the common Chinese dumpling. When I searched Google for "Martha Stewart pierogi recipes," I found 1.1 million results, including recipes similar to the ones you will discover here. Because the process of rolling the dough, cutting the rounds, and filling them is a bit difficult (and takes a lot of practice to perfect) we have a video of my mother and me making pierogi. The wonders of modern technology!
If Mom's recipes are better in my mind than others I have tried, it is because she was uncompromising in her fastidious search for perfect ingredients. She insisted, for example, that the cabbages be on the old side -- drier and tastier and whiter than just-picked green cabbage -- that the potatoes be yellow fleshed and rich, and that the butter and sour cream come from a local dairy, not the supermarket.
She had an expert touch in making a soft, tender, malleable dough. Other recipes for dough do not have both milk and sour cream, and most do not call for rolling it as thin. We use a cookie or biscuit cutter for the rounds, but I never saw Mom use anything except the floured rim of a specific glass tumbler with perfectly straight sides. She cut her circles very, very close together, so as not to waste a centimeter of dough, which she rolled out only once. I never saw her reuse the scraps. She said they would not make a perfect dumpling.