This Is Why Pierogi Are Martha's Comfort Food—Get Her Family Recipes for the Classic Polish Dumplings
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.
It seems many of my colleagues also loved Mom's pierogi, and when I was asked to write about them, I was very ready to oblige and very ready to eat some of each of my favorites.
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.
Get Martha's step-by-step Guide to making pierogi, then try her Mom's recipes for savory and sweet iterations.
Mashed Yukon gold potatoes blended with cream cheese fill these dumplings, and a drizzle of brown butter adds a delightfully rich finishing touch.
Soul-warming, these pierogi are filled with a mixture of tender cabbage, cream cheese, and butter. Just before serving, the dumplings are sauced with clarified butter.
They're not just for dinner. Topped with a vanilla-nutmeg sour cream, these blueberry dumplings, top, make a memorable dessert or serve them for brunch. The same sweetened sour cream is paired with Pierogi with Italian Plum Filling and Spiced Sour Cream Recipe also shown above.