Poland/Daring Cook's Challenge: Brew City Pierogi

I am from Milwaukee. I was born, raised, and publicly educated there, and was a resident there until 2003. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I was in Milwaukee (whether living there or just there for a visit)--taking a walk out onto the lake to see downtown (that's right, you heard me--walk out onto!), enjoying a coffee at my old eclectic haunt Fuel Cafe, taking in a Brewers game, eating Cream Puff and drinking root beer-flavored milk at the State Fair, or simply just enjoying conversation with friends at one of Milwaukee's many, many fantastic eateries (Beans & Barley, Acapulco, and Palms Bistro, I'm looking in your direction). I love how diverse the city's residents are, and the way it celebrates that diversity through many culture-based festivals during the summer. I love its vast art and music scene. I love its distinctive old buildings with ornate architecture. I love that it's a big city--but it's not TOO big. I feel a deep connection to power ballads and mullets, and I'm pretty sure that's because I grew up in Milwaukee.

Damn. Now I've made myself all nostalgic. Let's just take a look at a Milwaukee photo or two, shall we?

Why, hello, beautiful.

Water, water, everywhere...but you probably shouldn't drink it.

ANYWAY. It was not until a year or two ago that I learned something about the ancestry from my father's side of the family. I knew I was German--but then, if you're from Milwaukee, everyone seems to be German. I found out that I'm also Polish, which is the other cultural heavy hitter in Milwaukee. What was even more surprising and fascinating, is that my family has (apparently) been in Milwaukee since Milwaukee became Milwaukee. In sum: My love for and my deep ties to my city have a genetic root! It is no wonder, then, that I sigh with relief when I see the Milwaukee skyline. Now I know I can't help it--it's been bred into my bones.

I'd been coming up with this post before I knew about the Daring Cook's Challenge for August. I planned on making pierogi sometime in the fall, since they're such a hearty foodstuff. But then, the Daring Cooks went and read my mind again, and here we are. I was thrilled to death that I had an excuse to make these. I decided to make pierogi that would serve as a tribute to Milwaukee, and to both my Polish and German roots.

Are you ready for this? Okay, check it out: Pierogi stuffed with Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, topped with a Mustard-Beer Cream Sauce. Oh, hell yes.

This is the one and only picture that turned out even halfway decent. Sorry, folks.

Brew City Pierogi
(adapted from the recipes provided by the Challenge Hosts)
-2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
-About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

-2 bratwurst, skin removed
-2 cups (500 g) sauerkraut
-1 big carrot, grated
-1 shallot, chopped and fried with a tablespoon of butter
-Few (about 3) wild mushrooms (I used dry ones, you can use fresh but chop them and fry on some butter before adding to the sauerkraut cabbage)
-Salt, pepper and cumin

1. Saute all the ingredients together until soft, cool before filling pierogi.

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Mustard-Beer Cream Sauce (from Epicurious)
-1 12-ounce bottle lager beer
-1/3 cup chopped shallots
-3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
-1 1/2 cups whipping cream
-1/4 cup Dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1. Boil beer and shallots in heavy medium saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 12 minutes.

2. Add stock and boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes.

3. Add cream and boil until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in mustard and mustard seeds. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before serving.)

Verdict: These were rich and delicious. I loved the filling. The sauce was incredibly rich, but added a great flavor dimension to the pierogi. Greg loved the sauce to pieces, and wanted for me to make it again so he could dip pretzels in it. The pierogi making was a bit of a bitch, really. I found them really difficult to make for a variety of reasons. A lot of them fell apart during boiling due to inadequate sealing, which was because they were all too small to hold much filling, and the filling was all wild and loose and getting all over the dough. It was kind of a disaster. Fortunately, some of them held up. Also fortunate was the fact that I wasn't serving them to company, so looks didn't matter.

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.


Anonymous said...

I'm totally making these with veggie sausage sometime!


blepharisma said...

mustard-beer cream sauce!! yup, sounds and looks pretty amazing!

d.n.williamson said...

a) LOVE $0.25 root beer flavored milk
b) LOVE Beans & Barley

Jenni said...

Your Milwaukee Pierogi sound simply amazing! I want one..no, make that an entire plate full! :) Great job!!

Marisa said...

Yay for loving your hometown! Your pierogies look perfect, the filling is inspired and that sauce? Well let me just say this - wish I was there to have a bite!

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