The ladies of my mother’s CWL chapter are famous for their food. They get together and cook, for weddings and funerals, community dinners and seniors’ luncheons. They’re mostly over seventy and have decades of experience in the kitchen. They often share the specialties of their backgrounds with each other – they’ve cooked German, Irish, Filipino, Ukrainian, Italian and more together.
Not surprisingly, the most popular dishes they serve are old fashioned comfort favourites. At their annual Christmas craft fair last weekend, they served pierogies with fried onion, thick slices of sausage, and generous helpings of sour cream. They got together a few weeks before the fair and handmade every one. They were delicious, with a perfectly traditional potato and onion filling.
I’ve always wanted to be there when they have one of their pierogi-making bees, but it hasn’t happened. So, when I was given the opportunity to review Casey Barber‘s new book, Pierogi Love, I jumped on it.
Inside, I found some traditional recipes, like potato and cheddar, sauerkraut, and sour cherry. But the rest of the recipes are a world away from those – spinach, ham, and Gruyère; saag paneer; fig, goat cheese, and black pepper. Barber’s recipes take inspiration from flavours around the world, while making sure there’s something appropriate for occasions from tailgate parties (try her Elvis pierogies) to dinner parties (start with mushroom, goat cheese, and chive). Not all books live up to their subtitles, but this one does. It’s full of “new takes on an old-world comfort food.”
It’s also one of the best-designed cookbooks I’ve had my hands on this year. It’s a compact hardcover, with lovely photos, and patterns and colours that repeat charmingly throughout the book. Most of the recipes don’t require you to turn pages and the book stays open to the page you’ve chosen. Cookbook designers take note.
I was given permission to share one recipe with you and it’s a delightful one. However, if you want the recipe for the dough, you’ll have to buy the book. You really should.
LEMON CURD PIEROGIES
Making lemon curd is an impossible exercise in patience for me. Though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it tastes best when chilled, I absolutely cannot stop myself from sneaking warm spoonfuls fresh from the bowl. (I have the same problem with homemade tapioca pudding.) But the overnight chill process is crucial here to get the curd to the right consistency. Make the curd 1 day before assembling your pierogies, and work quickly when filling them so the curd stays cool and thick. If you see it start to warm and soften, put the curd back in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, then carry on.
Makes approximately 24 pierogies
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 small to medium lemons)
- ½ cup (3 ½ ounces, 100 grams) sugar
- 2 large eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 small cubes
- 1 batch Basic Sweet Dough
Whisk cornstarch and water in a bowl. Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and zest in a heatproof (stainless steel or Pyrex) bowl. Set bowl atop pan of simmering water; do not let bowl touch water. Whisk until liquid turns from sloshy and translucent to opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until liquid thickens into a silken curd consistency, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes—do not let the curd come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble. Remove bowl from heat. Add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Strain curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Roll out dough and stamp into rounds. Place 1 teaspoon filling on each dough round; brush with egg wash, fold, pinch, and seal as directed. Deep-fry, boil, and/or pan-fry pierogies.
Do Ahead: Filling can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
What’s not to love about a supple dough that comes together quickly and seals its contents just as easily? I’m not a dumpling pro, but almost all of my pierogies turned out beautifully. Barber’s instructions are thorough and her dough recipes are gold – you should be buying the book for that reason alone.
Only one of my not-quite-expertly constructed pierogies leaked when boiled, and that one only leaked a very little. I cooked about a third of them and the rest are in the freezer. (I’m planning to take them over to my parents’ place to surprise my lemon curd-loving Dad.)
The best pierogies are as enjoyable for their covering as they are for their filling and that’s certainly true here. The lemon curd pierogies use the sweet version of Barber’s basic dough. It’s not overly sweet and caramelizes beautifully when pan-fried.
Lemon curd and I are old friends, but Barber’s instructions are clear enough for a beginner to follow, so there’s no reason for intimidation at all. And the results are wonderful – thick, pillowy, sweet and tart. I have leftovers in the fridge. I’m not sure if they’ll go into a tart or not. Given how many spoons there are just lying around in the kitchen, I might not be able to resist the temptation of eating it straight from the bowl. But that’s a question for later.
I served the pierogies dusted with icing sugar and lemon zest, but they don’t really need any extra adornment. There is a nice balance between sweet and tart, the crunch of the caramelized dough and the softness underneath.
Now that I’ve (mostly) gotten the hang of making pierogies, I’m tempted to start filling the freezer with them. In fact, I had to take my tape flags out of the book, once I realized I’d marked almost every page. Once my freezer is full, I’d love to have a pierogi party, with plates coming out of the kitchen one after another, savoury to sweet, with flavours from around the world.
Gift Giver’s Guide: For the comfort food lover, the tradition-twister, and the party-pleaser.
Come back next week for a review of a book that celebrates the fruits of the land on which we stand.