Saturday, December 8, 2012


A quality deserving praise or approval; virtue.

Something that is passed down from preceding generations; a tradition.

A neologism created by California winemakers for their high-quality blended wines.

The "art" of teaching your lady friends how to make some of your traditional family recipes...all the while mixing many varietals of wine...oh, and vodka.

Around this time of year - once the tree is up, snow dusts the ground and Bing Crosby croons on about Silver Bells and Parson Brown - I become nostalgic for my Polish heritage.  Ha.  Non-sequitor, anyone?  Well, for my family, Christmas Eve was always the time of the year we celebrated our Polish traditions.  And, even though I'm a fourth generation partial Pole (a.k.a: mutt), this is the only heritage I experienced growing up and it's the only one I still celebrate, to this day...
Leo and Stella Klein (Grandma and Grandpa on my Dad's side)

Every Christmas Eve, many generations of my family would gather to celebrate the Polish tradition of Wigilia.  Our feast, while I'm sure bastardized over the years, consisted of many courses - a soup (borscht or a sour mushroom lima bean concoction), creamed herring (which no one eats without a dare or death-wish), pierogis, sauerkraut, kielbasa (traditionally Wigilia is vegetarian but, we didn't seem to adhere to that rule), potatoes, galabki, etc...
Now, I realize this feast is a gluttonous entity (it's like a whole new world of Thanksgiving hurt just one short month later) and for calorie intake alone, should only be consumed once a year.  Still, I think we can have certain parts of this meal once and a while, right?  And, in my mind, the star of the meal - the element I always loved as a kid and continue to crave until this day are the pierogis! Yes: doughy, delicious, butter-laden and onion-slathered pierogis - with a dollop of sour cream, please...

Anyone who has made pierogis (and I really hope you didn't try to make them by yourself) knows they take a long-ass time.  This is the kind of work that you begin to understand why women used to say "slaving in the kitchen."  Don't get me wrong - this is not hard work by any means but, incredibly time consuming and labor intensive.  And this, my friends, is why I thought it'd be a great idea to invite some ladies over to help me in my sweatshop of dough and butter - in trade for a good time, some wine and the promise of many leftovers!

We start with some Polish Vodka that Sara brought to help us get in the "spirit" of things!  I'm pretty sure my great aunts were drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or that syrupy Blackberry liqueur in the kitchen when they were cooking for the crew but, we opt for a more hard-core tribute to Poland.
Na zdrowie! 
(This beautiful vessel is made for Vodka.  My mom gave this to me about 10 years ago and this was actually the first time I've used it.  Genius!)
Before you start - lets just get real - you need, a LOT of butter.  And diced, a LOT of diced onions.  One more friendly tip: there's simply no reason to even try to make this recipe low fat - it will fail miserably and make you very sad. 

Oh, yes, it all starts out so innocently...
The beauty of scoring an onion - makes it so easy to dice...

I made all the fillings ahead of time because it's pretty darn easy, saves time and well, that's what my Mom does!  I made three traditional fillings and, as an homage to my family's weird obsession with making one special pierogi that someone will "luckily" consume and win a prize, which is simply that you get to pick next year's weird filling: one experimental concoction.

My experimental concoction: Sweet Potato (a safer, more savory choice)
  • Boil three sweet potatoes
  • Mash with butter and a bit of sour cream
  • Sauté in diced onions and butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Set aside your fillings for later...


  • 2 c. of flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm milk
Now, we doubled this recipe and made three batches (makes about 250-ish pierogis)
 If you can find a beautiful hand model, like Shannon here, the dough will also look pretty when you roll it out!
  • Use a cookie cutter (or I just use a rocks glass) to cut the dough out in circles
  • Spoon teaspoon of filling in each piece of dough
  • Score the dough just like you would any other pie or dumpling

  • Two pots of boiling water on stove
  • Two sauté pans with butter and onions ready to go
  • When the dumplings float to the top, take them out with a slotted spoon and fry them up in butter and onions

"It's like a Jesus butter baby..." - Vanessa Greenway
Somewhere in between boiling and frying, Kristen brought out this beauty of a wine.  Kristen is my most favorite "wino."  She's quite knowledgable, always willing to share, not snobby about it, up for a good bargain or investment - all the while having the most exquisite taste.  Anyway, she brought this bottle to share, opening it up to breathe right when she arrived explaining she brought a back up bottle "just in case!" because she was afraid something might have happened to it in transit.  I can tell you that only amazingness must have happened in transit because as we all took our first taste, we immediately did that thing where your eyes get really wide and you all start smiling and laughing and saying things like, "Wow!" "Yum!" and "Holy shit, Kristen!"
"The wheels are falling off this bus but, it's okay because it's delicious!" - Sara Jean McCarthy
And, once they are all fried up, they look like this...
"Eat whatever you want because we have five thousand million pierogis here..." - Carolyn Klein

Oh, and I also made some kielbasa and sauerkraut in the slow cooker to compliment our doughy love.  Such an easy recipe - kielbasa, fresh kraut, an onion, stick of butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and pepper to season - cook for 3-5 hours.
Three words: GENE'S. SAUSAGE. SHOP.

Sara's Mom used to call this ''toothpick food" - so we stuck some toothpicks in as a tribute...
And, this is how we look after 5,000 glasses of wine and vodka while slaving in the kitchen for five plus hours!
"I can feel the butter in my system now..." - Kristen Hudson
"It's like savory donuts right to your soft spot...happy food dance moments..." - Shannon Rawley

We came. We drank.  We diced many onions and used a shit-ton o' butter.  We talked about life, love, work, marriage, holidays, travel, family and cooking.  We ate.  We conquered.  We took leftovers home to our partners and neighbors.

Just as our ancestors did.

Until next time...Ciao!

1 comment:

  1. I tried to like this and then remembered I wasn't on facebook. Fun and entertaining read. I love pierogies!