(by Aimee Lee Ball)
My mother was brought up in a Jewish family, and absolutely considered herself a Jewish woman, but she had an inclusive, generous, small-c catholic attitude about religion (not unlike her small-c catholic taste in music). Before I started attending "Sunday school" at the same synagogue where my mom had gone, she and my dad thought it would be educational for me to experience Roman Catholic services with our French next-door neighbors, Presbyterian church with other neighbors, and a local Friends meeting house (the Quaker movement had a rich history in our state of Pennsylvania, going back to William Penn himself). We joined in the celebrations of any holidays that included friends (small-f) and food.
One year, after my dad had died and our holidays were somewhat in flux, Mom and I were invited to spend Easter weekend at the country home of a friend in upstate New York. Carol was proudly Polish, and an enthusiastic cook. For her Sunday brunch crowd, she made potato and cabbage pierogies from scratch, along with a cake baked in a lamb mold.
On Easter morning, she wanted to attend mass at the church across the road from her house. I stayed back, cheerfully opting for secular tasks like setting the table, but my mom said she would accompany Carol to mass.
When they returned from the services, they were both laughing. The soothing music, the lilting (or monotonous) tone of the sermon, or some combination thereof had made my mom fall asleep. But she was awakened when the annoyed priest walked up the aisle and sprinkled her with holy water.
She always said that she would take benediction anywhere she found it.
(adapted from Fine Cooking)
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
3 large eggs, beaten
2 T. sour cream
1 c. water; more as needed
In a large bowl, stir flour, eggs, sour cream, and 1/2 c. water.
Gradually add remaining water, until mixture begins to come together.
Turn onto a well-floured surface.
Knead gently with your fingertips, lifting dough off the counter and dropping it down.
Do not overwork dough.
After 2 – 5 minutes, dough should be smooth on the outside and slightly sticky when poked.
Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest for at least 20 minutes while making the filling.
1 1/2 lb. russet potatoes (about 3), peeled and cut in 1-in. slices
2 T. unsalted butter; more as needed
1 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 c. finely shredded green cabbage (about 1/4 of a small head)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 T. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 t. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 – 3 T. butter or vegetable oil, for sautéing
Put potatoes in a pot with just enough cold salted water to cover, and boil until soft, 15 - 20 minutes.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter and oil.
Add onion, garlic, and thyme, and cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to soften and brown at the edges, about 8 minutes.
Lower heat and continue cooking until cabbage and onion are browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
If mixture seems dry, add 1 – 2 T. additional butter.
Set aside to cool.
Drain potatoes in a colander, and press lightly with a kitchen towel to dry thoroughly.
Return potatoes to the hot pot, shake them dry, and remove from heat.
Add cooled cabbage mixture, cheese, and parsley, mashing until well blended.
Season again with salt and pepper.
With lightly floured hands, pinch of 1-T. portions of dough, and roll into balls about 1 1/2 in. in diameter.
You should end up with about 3 dozen.
With a small rolling pin or dowel on a well-floured surface, gently roll out each ball about 3 in. round and 1/8 in. thick.
Keep them covered as you work so they won’t dry out.
Hold a round of dough flat in your palm, dust off excess flour, and spoon a generous tablespoon of filling in the center.
Fold the round in half to enclose filling and pinch edges to seal.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling, keeping filled pierogis covered with plastic wrap.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook pierogis in batches, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another 2 - 4 minutes.
Bite into one to check that there’s no chalky line.
Heat 2 – 3 T. butter or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Cook pierogis in batches until golden brown and puffy on both sides.
Season with salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream and chives.