Recipe: Pierogi

November 27

For the past five years I have been lucky to celebrate Christmas Eve with a friend of Polish descent. I adore food traditions, and while I had heard of the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of Fishes, I was not familiar with the Polish custom of Wigilia.

Traditionally, the Polish Christmas eve meal consists of multiple courses of white, usually meatless, dishes. The feast begins when the youngest child sees the first star in the night sky.

Our Wigilia remains Polish in flavor and snowy in color, though we generally throw in a main course of schnitzel or whole salt-roasted snapper. But something that we simply cannot do without are Pierogis.

They do take some time and effort to make, but the beautiful part is that you can you make them all the way to the final step in advance and stock your freezer full so you have their pillowy potato goodness at the ready before the holiday season overtakes you.

So, here, a month before Christmas, I give you a recipe for Christmas Even Pierogi. Call over your some friends and pinch away.

Pierogi Dough:

(Click here for video: https://youtu.be/JDTGCE0eAXU )

Adapted from the Costello Family

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup sour cream

Mix egg and sour cream until combined. Add flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. If the dough looks dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Refrigerate for 5-8 hours, or if it is cool enough, simply rest on countertop with bowl overturned on top.

Filling

2 lbs russet potatoes

1 tbs vegetable oil, or vegetable oil spray

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, roughly grated

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes. Poke holes in potatoes. Coat lightly in oil and sprinkle skins with salt and pepper. Roast potatoes on rack in center of the oven, with a baking sheet or a piece of foil on a lower rack beneath them to catch and water or oil that might drop from them. Roast potatoes until tender in the center, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Slice each potato in quarters, and scoop flesh into a bowl. Reserve potato skins for a chef’s snack*.

Add cheddar and pinch of nutmeg to hot potatoes and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Assembly

Divide pierogi dough into quarters. Cover dough with a damp towel to keep from drying out. Roll one quarter of dough at a time on a floured surface to 1/8″ thickness. Cut three inch rounds of dough. Roll scraps into a ball and allow to rest before rerolling.

Fill each dough round with 1 rounded teaspoon of potato filling. Wet the edges of the dough with water and press to seal well. Place sealed pierogi on a baking sheet lined with parchment (or cornmeal) to prevent sticking. Cover filled pierogis with a dishtowel to keep from drying out.

Cook:

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup onion

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Gently drop 4-6 pierogis at a time in the boiling water. Cook until pierogi’s float to the top of the pot, then allow to cook 1 minute more before removing with a strainer. (From this point, pierogis can be frozen and stored for 2 months).

In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, soften 1/2 cup of onions in 2 tablespoons of butter. Add strained pierogis to the skillet an toss to coat with butter (it is ok if a little bit of the pierogi water splashes into the pan; this will only help emulsify the sauce and give it a creamy body). Lower heat and allow one side of the pierogi to reach a rich golden brown.

Repeat with the rest of the dumplings. Serve with sour cream, apple sauce, and sauerkraut on the side.

Hospitality @ Home: Buffet Set Up

With Turkey Day around the corner, here are some things to help you serve up your buffet with ease and style.

1. How many people will be at your party? More than 10 people, and you’ll want to be sure that you set your buffet so it can operate from both sides. For small gatherings “buffets” can be set on your stovetop in covered pots so that hot food can keep warm over a low flame, with plates and cutlery on a nearby countertop.

2. Do dishes need to stay hot? You can keep dishes warm by placing hot food on hot plates and keeping them covered. Soups and melty dips can be set in fondue pots over a sterno flame, or in crockpots to keep warm. Get your surge protector on and be sure to tape or otherwise secure loose cords so guests don’t trip over them.

3. Consider the silverware. If you are placing the silverware on the buffet, place it at the front of the buffet, rolled tightly in a roll up that can easily be held or even tucked in a pocket. But if it is possible, it is more efficient to pre-set the cutlery and napkins at individual seats at the non-buffet tables.

4. Consider the sauces. Place saucers beside serving dishes as a landing spot for spoons/ servingware so the tablecloth does not become covered in food debris.

5. Prevent traffic jams. Place canapes and beverages at different locations (if you have the room) to prevent bottlenecks. At a bare minimum, set your beverages on a separate table across the room from the food.

6. Be cagey. If you are on a budget, place plentiful, less expensive dishes at the beginning of the buffet and the more expensive, scarcer items at the end. As in, put your dinner rolls, and mashed potatoes at the beginning, the steak and shrimp at the end.

7. Be fancy. Create levels. By skewering meatballs or other small bites with bamboo sticks, or placing dishes with a low profile (like cut sushi rolls, tortillas, cookies) on literal pedestals. If you don’t have a plethora of cake stands, you can create levels by placing plates on overturned teacups or mason jars. Or if that’s not your aesthetic, you can place a row of sturdy boxes down the center of your buffet table, cover them with linens and tuck your serving plates around and on top of them. If you want to be extra opulent, you can fill the space between the plates with seasonal fruits, vegetables, and sturdy kale leaves to completely cover the fabric components, creating a “cascading cornucopia” effect.

Restaurant 101: Carrying Plates

Here’s another tip from serving school: how to carry multiple plates. This is just the basic 2-3-4 plate carries. I am deeply in awe of diner servers in fast-paced joints that can stack seven chicken-fried steak dinners, but I know that skill can only come from years of experience with the weight and balance of a particular set of dishes, acclimation to their temperatures, and the sure-footedness that comes from knowing a restaurant dining room as well as one’s own home.

The multiple plate carry is useful for dinner parties, or for your first job in a restaurant. The four plate carry is also ideal for transporting plates of birthday cake from a conference room to your office mates, should the occasion arise 😉

Hospitality @ Home: Home Party Set Up with Bar

At the very least, separate the bar/ beverage area from the food area. Browsing a buffet is a different speed than dashing off a martini or pouring a glass of Chianti. Plus beverage areas involve sloshing, splashing, ice, lemon wedges, and all manner of things that you wish to keep cold while you want to keep food room-temperature-to-hot. Separate the bar from the food.

If you have the room, separate the canapes and desserts from the main food area especially if your party is more of a cocktail reception affair. Spreading the different courses through the space encourages mingling with minimal effort.

But, back to the bar.

A good self-serve bar needs:

Glasses that match the offerings (wine glasses, rocks glasses, highballs, cocktail glasses, etc.)

Ice

Cocktail shakers

Garnishes

Towels

Wine

Spirits

Mixers

Bottle opener

Wine key

If you are serving cocktails, set your bar area near a sink so that cocktail shaker ice can be easily poured away. Alternately you can pre-mix a batch of a signature cocktail (Moscow Mules, Bloody Marys, Gold Rushes, Margaritas, Mojitos, Brambles, and Smashes all work beautifully), pour into a pitcher and set beside a serving a note (“Pour over ice and add a squeeze of lime”, etc.)

If you are setting a full service bar for cocktail service, place like things with like– wine with wine, spirits with spirits, mixers with mixers, garnishes with garnishes, tools with other tools. Corral your tools (bar spoons, wine key, bottle opener) to a small dish or tray so it is clear where to look for them.

In addition to an ice bucket, it is a good idea to provide a small, elegant receptacle for bottle caps, corks, wine wrapping.

Return to the bar area periodically to tidy up, refresh ice, empty the debris bin and stock with fresh glasses.

Hospitality @ Home: Dinner Party Set Up Timeline

As the weather grows colder (hopefully? In most places, though not California, *deep sigh*) we all find our revels moving indoors. When you find yourself in the mood for throwing a dinner party, as I often do, here’s a rough timeline.

Two Weeks (yes, I said Two. As in 2, go with it) Before Your Party

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should your dinner party, ok?

– Reach out to your guests. Send em a text. Create a facebook event. Write an email. Or make everyone feel like Queen Victoria by sending them a handwritten invitation, and request RSVP’s.

One Week before your party,

– You should have heard from your invitees, but if you haven’t, reach out to the stragglers.

– As your guests joyously reply that they cannot wait to attend your fete, be sure to ask them if they have any dietary restrictions or food allergies.

– Plan your menu. Choose dishes that can be cooked a day or two ahead, or dishes that come together quickly on the day. Soups make a great first course (and can be made a day ahead), Braised meats can be cooked the day before as an entree, panna cotta, mousse cakes, or enriched cakes like date or almond cakes hold well in the freezer and thaw quickly on the day.

But be aware of your limitations while menu planning. If you and your guests aren’t big on the sweets, why not offer a cheese plate as the dessert course. Alternately, if you are possession of a sweet tooth, but you are a disaster with pastry, dessert is one of the easiest things to buy in.

– Place any necessary orders. With the butcher or the local bakery for that 3-pound snapper or leg of lamb, or mirror glaze mousse cake.

2 days before

– buy groceries.

– prepare dessert (if you are cooking one. Picking one up on the day is certainly an option)- an enriched cake like a date cake or an almond cake can hold up well to freezing. Panna cotta or creme brulee need a long rest in refrigeration, and will be fine for 48 hours.

– deep clean areas guests will spend the most time in. A few toys and coasters laying around are nothing to worry over. This is the foundational layer pass, the dusting the top of the bookshelves, the vacuuming under the sofa, the discarding of the pile of magazines that have collected under the coffee table.

– re-arrange any furniture that needs to re-arranged.

1 day before

– Braise/ roast/ prepare mis en place

– make ice

– polish your glassware and silverware

– Clean and stock the bathroom that your guests will use on the night. Sometimes this is your only bathroom. In which case take this time to remove or stash any cosmetics, medications, etc, that you don’t want anyone to see. Also, remove any towels that you wouldn’t want guests to dry their hands on. It’s a nice touch to have a stain removing pen or stain removing wipes placed in a dish on the countertop, too. It’s not a party until someone spills red wine on their white shirt.

6 hours before

– Pull out any dishes that need to thaw or come to room temperature

– Do a final surface sweep of any clutter that would otherwise embarrass you in the guest areas. Set stacks of coasters or cocktail napkins on the corner of any surfaces where your guests might set a drink down.

– have a stack of clean absorbent towels (paper is fine if that is all you have) stashed in a discreet place near the dinner table and the bar so they are easily at hand for any (inevitable) spills.

– Arrange any last minute mis-en-place. If your roast is finished with a last minute pan sauce, chop the shallots and pre-measure wine for it. If your first course is a salad, wash the greens and prepare the dressing now so all you need to do is toss it together just before serving (though a hardy green like Kale can handle 6 hours in a citrusy dressing, so you can put it together well ahead….. and now you know why you see kale salads on so many restaurant menus….)

– Set table. Or if you have a partner or other household minions, this is a good task for them.

2 hours before

– Get dressed in your dinner outfit (don’t be a hero, put an apron over your couture).

– Set your lighting. Will there be candles over a zillion surfaces? Lay them out now.

– Put on music.

– Set out canapes and arrange bar, in case any guests wander in early.

– Set up coffee/ tea tray for after dinner and set aside.

1 hour before

-Whip cream for dessert- if needed.

-Put finishing touches on any dishes that need them. Wrap platters with foil and hold them in a warm (not hot!) oven until you are ready to bring them to the table.

-Pour yourself a glass of wine.

-Take the first bite of your canapes so that when your guests arrive, no one will be too self-conscious to take the first bite. Seriously. Thats just being a good host.

Recipe: Blueberry Black Pepper Pie

Double Pie crust

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups flour

1 tbs sugar

1 tsp Salt

1/2 cup ice cold water

Filling

20 ounces cultivated blueberries

10 ounces wild blue berries

1 cup Sugar

3 tbs tapioca ground fine

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a large bowl add berries (frozen berries are fine, there is no need to thaw frozen berries). Add sugar, tapioca powder, lemon zest and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour into uncooked pie crust. Cover with top pie crust. Crimp edge and brush top with egg wash. Bake in 425 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, until crust is puffed and golden, and berries are bubbling.

Cool for 2 hours at room temperature before serving.