I am starting the writing of this post before I even begin doing the challenge. As I think about food and think about what I am going to prepare, I am constantly thinking about how I am going to write about it and sometimes I have the story so wonderfully written down in my head but the moment I sit down to actually write it I either forget it or just cannot write it. So this post is a process.
This month's Daring Cook's challenge is very special to me. As soon as I saw the recipe posted I picked up the phone to call my mother and tell her "Mami! We are going to make v(b)anerikes, Babe's recipe, this month." Babe (Bubbe, in Spanish...aka Rebeca) was my mothers grandmother and when I saw the challenge was to make a recipe my mom had learned with her I got so excited. I wrote v(b)arenikes with the b in parenthesis because as it is with old recipes and customs we all have a way of doing things. I am sticking with varenikes. In the many family recipes we looked for the varenikes recipe, we found it written in different ways and the recipes were all somewhat different. Some add butter, others add one egg, others add two eggs. We made it our own based on my mom's memory of learning how to make them with Babe many years ago. Just remember that with these recipes you can always play around. You can add two eggs but less water, you know what I mean.
The best part of the whole challenge was sitting at the dinner table the night before opening the different recipe books my mom has collected over the years, and when I say collected I really mean a notebook where she has written down recipe after recipe. Recipes from her grandma, her aunt, friends, and her own. What a treasure! Our friend from Qulinaria has been here visiting so she was sitting with us at the table. The day before she had given a baking class at the house with some friends and she made an amazing apple strudel and a scrumptious pear and almond tart! While we were sitting looking through the recipes, we found the apple strudel recipe in the mix, a recipe Ana had given my mom many years ago and it was not until that day that she had ever seen it again, and never even tried it on her own! Ana said "Vivi, the best part is that I can keep on tricking you with new recipes every day that are not really new!" We all started crying from how hard we were laughing. (If you don't think this is funny, then you just had to be there.)
I got to know Babe, but she passed away while I was still a baby so the memories are all stories my mom and her sisters tell me as well as this picture.
Back to the challenge.
The challenge describes varenikes as Pierogi, little dumplings filled with different foods depending on where they are from. They said that almost every culture has one on its menu. Wikipedia has a good article where you can read about the different kind of Pierogi. For this post, we will call the Pierogi: varenikes.
So we figured out a recipe and made the Varenikes. Varenikes are very easy to make they are just labor intensive.
flour for the surface you will work on
water from the boiled potatoes (you might need more)
Heat the oil in a pan while you slice the red onions into thin slices. Place the onion in the pan to fry and add salt and pepper. Fry until golden.
Wash, peel and boil the potatoes in salted water and mash once they are done. Do not throw away the water. Keep about a cup which you will use to make the dough. Add a little piece of potato to the potato water and mash it to add more flavor.
Add 2-3 Tbsp of the fried onion to the mashed potatoes and mix. Set aside to cool.
We made the dough in the food processor but you can also make it by hand, like in the old days :). Combine the 1 1/2 cup of flour and egg in the food processor and mix. Add the potato water little by little and more flour (if needed). Mix in the food processor until the bowl seems clean and the dough has come together and is not sticky. You need a soft dough. Cover with a humid towel so that it does not dry out.
On a clean floured work surface, knead and then roll the dough out thinly (about 1/8" or 3mm). Make circles with a round glass or a 3" cookie cutter.
Spoon a portion (about 1 big teaspoon) of the filling onto the middle of each circle.
Fold the dough in half and pinch in the center. Get your hands 'dirty' with flour so that the dough and the potato filling do not stick to your fingers as you are molding and closing the varenike.
Pinch the dough all around, making sure you go over the edge a couple of times so that they wont open while they cook.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop in one varenike to try the dough and to make sure that everything is perfect! Let the water return to a boil and when the varenike rises to the surface (like with ravioli), continue to simmer for about 8-9 minutes. Remove and taste to see if it is ready. Make sure the dough has cooked thoroughly. Gather the scraps, re-roll, and fill. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough.
Place the varenikes in the boiling water and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Drain the water and serve with the remaining fried onions placed on top.