Martha Stewart presents Mrs. Kostyra’s Pierogi
My mother, Big Martha as she was known in the family, loved to cook and bake. She had an army to cook for, and she did it with ease and reliability. My father, siblings, and I were the daily beneficiaries of variety, fresh ingredients, multiple dishes, and delicious homemade desserts. There was no such thing as fast food in our lives, unless you could call the paper-thin minute steaks we all loved on white bread with butter, salt, and pepper fast food. We rarely, if ever, opened cans—no soft drinks, no junk food—but we had lots of homemade cookies and cakes and pies, to keep our sweet teeth happy and fulfilled. Mom wasn’t a health freak, and always believed in a balanced diet with milk, butter, meat, fish, lots of vegetables, and some sweets.
I think all six children grew up unfussy and experimental about food because Mom was so adventurous herself, trying new ingredients and encouraged by our father’s love of the exotic. We were never bored, never complacent, and we always looked forward to meals prepared in the kitchen and served to the entire family at one sitting.
Mom had an extensive collection of wonderful recipes, but my favorite was and still is pierogi, little boiled dumplings concocted from a round of tender, plain dough. The half-moon shape is formed around a savory filling, such as a soft pillow of potato, or occasionally a sweet one, such as an apricot or halved plum.
If my mother’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 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 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. I 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.
Before she passed away several years ago, I worked very closely by my mother’s side, writing down her recipes, so we would all have them forever. I am happy to share her pierogi recipe with you.
Makes about 5 dozen
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 c whole milk
- 1 c water
- 5 c all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and dusting
- Yellow cornmeal, for dusting
- 5 lb (about 12 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- 2 sticks (1 c) unsalted butter
In a large bowl, whisk together egg and sour cream. Add in milk and water, whisking to combine. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface. (Dough will be loose and sticky.) Using a bench scraper, turn and fold dough to knead, dusting with flour as needed, until elastic and no longer sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. (Dough will come together as you knead it. Be careful not to add too much flour, since it will toughen the dough.) Cover with an inverted bowl; let rest for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Place potatoes in a large pot, and cover with cold water. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain potatoes, and then pass through a ricer. Stir in cream cheese and melted butter; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a clean linen towel, and dust generously with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 1⁄8-inch-thick round (keep other pieces covered).
Cut out circles very close together, using a 3-inch cutter or glass. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent dough from drying. Repeat with remaining dough.
Form filling into 1½-inch ovals (about 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons each). Place filling in the center of each dough circle. Holding 1 circle in your hand, fold dough over filling. Pinch edges, forming a well-sealed crescent. Transfer to cornmeal-dusted towel, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough circles and filling.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, transfer pierogi to boiling water. They will sink to the bottom and then rise. Once they have risen, cook through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from water, and reserve.
To make the brown butter, melt the 2 sticks of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until dark golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Coat a platter with half the brown butter. Transfer pierogi to platter using a slotted spoon. Drizzle tops with remaining butter, and season with salt. Serve.
A prolific author and successful businesswoman, Martha Stewart is the founder, president, and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she is the host of her syndicated talk show Martha and publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine.