It has been a tradition for many years to make rogies on Christmas. My mom has a recipe that has been passed down to her through family for years. This is a typical eastern European/Pittsburgh dish that I wanted to fully learn and record. It is a lot of work to make them if you make everything from scratch like we did but there are some corners that could be cut. Either way, they are a great comfort and holiday food that can be eaten at anytime too.
Start to fold the liquids into the flour which I learned is not as easy as it may seem. Make sure not to break the outer barrier before most of the liquid is absorbed or it will run on the counter and floor, at least I’ve heard that may happen…. The dough is very sticky at this point but work at it and add the melted butter until you are able to form it into a ball and clean the counter with it. Don’t overknead the dough and try to just get it to where it needs to be and set aside in a bag for a half an hour or so.
Put the dough aside for now. There is plenty more to do. Next onto the topping which is pronounced svatky, but I was not able to find an official spelling of. I found out that Svatky is a city in the Ukraine, which is the general region where these are from and makes sense. These recipes have been passed through the oral tradition and have been translated from various regions so it is easier to say than to write. Svatky, or however it is spelled is onion carmelized in butter with bacon, which is universally delicious.
Once the onions start to brown and become translucent, add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is almost done. It will cook again during the final preparation and is best to be underdone instead of over cooked.
Once this mixture is ready, drain off a good bit of the fat/liquid. Some of the actual mixture and it’s grease will be used for the potato mixture so make sure to plan for that. This is an amount that will be spread across the whole batch so what we do is put it into a container and use a few scoops each time we whip up a few rogies. We usually make the batch of rogies up to the last step and then refrigerate them. Then when we are going to have some, we take them from the fridge and do the final frying with the svatky mixture.
Next onto the filling. There are various styles and fillings and we went with what I understand to be pretty much the standard, potato, onion, and bacon. We made fresh mashed potatoes, but this is another area where you can take a shortcut and use instant mashed potaters. Boil and prepare mashed potatoes as you normally would, we added a bit of the svatky grease to the potatoes when mashing them. You want to keep them a little drier than you would normal mashed potatoes to be served as is. So we did add milk, but just enough to bring the mixture together.
This is after the potatoes have been cooked and are about to be mashed. We added a few spoonfuls of the grease and a few spoonfuls of the svatky mixture itself with a dash of salt and pepper. This is definitely a dish that is better undersalted as the bacon and butter are pretty salty. Remember it can always be added but can’t be taken back. I usually add salt and pepper once they are on the plate and ready to be eaten.
Now all of the parts are ready and its time for the assembly. This is very similar to dumplings that we have made in the past. Back to the dough. Take about a third of the dough and roll it out onto the counter to a thin sheet. It is hard to describe how thin it should be, but probably about 1/8 of an inch. Remember that you have to be able to work with the dough pretty easily so roll it out with that in mind.
Use a few sprinkles of flour when working with the dough to keep it from sticking to the counter or roller. Now it is time to cut out the wrappers. What we did was just use a floured drinking glass as the mold. Dip the glass edge in flour every few times and cut out as many wrappers as you can from the rolled dough. Put the excess aside and combine all of the extras and roll them out again to maximize the wrappers you can get from the dough.
Take the wrappers and put a dab of the potato mixture in the middle. As with dumplings, put as much as you can, but be careful not to put too much where the dumpling can’t close properly which is very important.
Have a small bowl of water handy to dip a finger into and run around the edge of the wrapper to seal it. Make sure that the edges are completely closed so filling doesn’t get out and water doesn’t get in during the boiling.
Once all of the pierogies are formed and sealed they need to be boiled. Place some, not too many in boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes after they have risen to the top. This will be about a total of 5 minutes in the water. Stir occasionally so they don’t stick to each other or the pot.
Once they are done, drain the rogies on waxed paper.
At this point, you can continue and cook them until they are ready to be eaten, or store them until they will be used. Today we had to sample them of course and continued cooking about a dozen and stored the rest. We will have some on Christmas day for lunch which is also part of the tradition. There will most likely be some made Christmas late night too. They can be refrigerated for about a week or so until needed. To store them, put a paper towel in the bottom of a pan/container and be sure to put a piece of waxed paper between each layer of rogies or they will stick together. Be careful of laying them too close together also as they are very sticky at this point.
The final preparation step is to heat up some of the svatky mixture in a pan. If there is not enough grease from the mixture, add a little butter so that pierogies will brown nicely. Pan fry them for 5-10 minutes or until cooked to your liking. We usually like them to be pretty crispy with some good browning.
Did I mention that this dish is extremely healthy? That is part of the reason why it is an annual holiday dish. The work is another part of that reason too. These are delicious, bring back memories, and play the great roles of comfort food. If you cut the corners, it will drastically cut down on the prep time and effort. I may cut the corners in the future but really wanted to do it all from scratch for the learning experience and post.
A little dash of salt and pepper and they are ready to go. Give them a try!