Last Saturday, along with three friends, my daughter and I went on a road trip. Our destination? Exotic and distant small town Whiting, Indiana, where the last weekend of July is devoted to celebrating the humble Polish Pierogi. We drove past bountiful corn fields, rows of soy bean bushes, relaxed and grazing animals. We drove under threatening gray clouds and then thankfully, fluffy white cotton candy clouds. We waited patiently through road construction delays, waited not so patiently at a train crossing and then started doing stretches on the side of road. A kind passer-by asked if we’re going to the Pierogi fest, said he’s working there, and offered to guide us through back roads. Eager to escape the wait we followed him to the event parking lot. During that brief ride, there were suspicious alternate scenarios discussed, questions as to why and how he knew we were headed to the fest and concerns that we look like we eat a of pierogies. Our time at the Pierogi fest began with anticipation, excitement and kindness (thank you dear stranger for getting us to the event).
The event was much larger and better organized than I had imagined. It took up at least 6 blocks of Whiting city center. There was no entry fee. Many stalls had pierogies that could be purchased individually for a dollar. In addition to pierogies, there was also ice-cream, tacos, fried dough and refreshing drinks. This diversity in content and price made it affordable and welcoming. There were rides and games, shows, dances, craft stalls and much more. The variety, affordability and scale made it perfect for families, young couples, large groups and hungry friends. We started appropriately with the first stall: Pierogi Bomb. Soft, moist and flavorful, these pierogies set the standard. The ladies were funny and passionate about the Polish treat, warning us against the cultural inferiority of fried or boiled pierogies available at the fest. My daughter and I had the classic potato and cheese, as well as a spinach. My friend, Siggy, swears by the beautiful blueberry pierogi.
We tried varieties from other stalls, as well as other treats like potato pancakes (I’ve had better), shaved ice and a horchata drink. The numerous sheesh kabob stalls, made me wonder if sausages and kabobs go together on the Polish table.
This cajun stall was so enticing with its large platter of steaming and spicy seafood dishes. Just looks like a party, doesn’t it?
My little friend group, included my new friend (Kathy, my good friend’s sister-in-law), Robin Henke, Polish pierogi maker and our guide. Robin pointed out good that pierogies don’t have a lot of dough on the edges so every bite has filling. She gave us a few batches of her homemade pierogies. Thanks to her, my pierogi fest didn’t end Saturday but continued Sunday. She even shared her recipe! Can’t wait to try it and feed my new love of pierogies and pierogi fest.
If you missed it this year, mark your calendars for next year.
Robin’s Pierogi Recipe
3 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
2 Cups old Mashed Potatoes
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 Cup Shredded Cheese – I use cheddar and mix it into the potatoes when the are still warm
1 Container (8 oz) Sour Cream
3 Cups Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1. For the mashed potato filling, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Stir in the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 mins.
Stir into the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
2. To make the dough, beat together the eggs and sour cream until smooth.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
Stir into the sour cream mixture until dough comes together.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until firm and smooth.
Divide the dough in half, then roll out one half to 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut into 3 inch rounds.
3. Place a small spoonful of the mashed potato filing into the center of each round.
Moisten the edges with water, fold over and press together to seal.
Can work on the second half of the dough while cooking the first batch.
4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Add pierogies and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the pierogi float to the top.
Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on parchment lined baking sheet.
Once I get a cookie sheet full, I put it in the freezer till pierogies are frozen.
Then I shrink wrap them in how ever many I want in a package.
5. To reheat them: melt some butter in a skillet, can add some sliced onion, lay the frozen pierogies on top of onions and sauté until heated through, turning gently a time or two and browned on the outside. I like mine a little crispy on the outside.