Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vareniki...kinda like Pirogis

Potlucks are my favorite things in the world.  Well, they're definitely in my top 10.  It's a chance to taste a whole bunch of things without having to commit to anything.  My fav.  My workplace is really big into potlucks and we don't take them lightly.

This month's theme is to bring in something that is in your heritage or something that reminds you of home.  Naturally, I have been trying to come up with something Russian.  In case you missed it - I'm Russian. Born and raised.  Anyways, Jon's bringing Diet Coke.  I'm still laughing.

I decided on Vareniki.  Vareniki are kind of like Polish Pirogis, but the dough is usually a little different and they're a bit smaller in size.  Some of my favorite Vareniki are make with cherries, cabbage, or potatoes.  I decided to keep things simple and make potato Vareniki.

As you'll notice, I like to take a lot of shortcuts and use whatever I have in the fridge.

My friend Inna once told me that she used wanton wrappers from the store instead of making dough.  Sounds good to me!  So I've been using the 50-pack of wanton wrappers that are just thin enough and small enough to pass for Russian Vareniki dough.

Here they are.  On my very old cutting board.  I really need a new one.  Jonathan - are you listening? Probably not.

I'm sure you noticed that these are square and we want something that is more circular.  I use a glass to cut out the circles.

I happen to have a glass that's just the right size.

Just press down, and then twist slowly.  And you get this cute little circle.  Then I just strip the extra dough away and leave it in a pile on the side.

And here is my nice little circle of dough.  Now repeat approximately 49 more times if you are using all 50 wanton wrappers.

Here is a small pile of them.

Then I cut up some onion to add to my soon-to-be mashed potatoes and skillet.  I really like using the red onions best, but I went to BJ's and bought this huge bag of white onions, so I'll be using those.  I'm going to make a whole bunch of mashed potatoes because Jon and I are hungry and want dinner, so I'm using a couple of onions.  If you're just making Vareniki, you probably just need 1 decent sized onion and a couple of potatoes.

So I don't know about you, but my eyes go NUTS when I am cutting onion.  I truly hate it.  I'm standing over my cutting board, crying up a storm anytime an onion even makes an appearance.  Once of these times my mother-in-law noticed that I was bawling while cutting onions.  So next Christmas I got these in my stocking:

These are goggles that you wear when cutting onions.  They're funny looking.  I'm sure she meant them as a joke.  Jon makes fun of me endlessly for wearing them.  But you know what?  I freaking love them.  I wear them anytime an onion is in sight and I haven't shed a tear since.  Thanks mom!  You're insanely attentive and thoughtful.

Meanwhile, I am boiling some red potatoes.  I think these are the best ones to use for mashed potatoes because they get really soft really fast.  Like I said, I'm making too many because Jon and I are starving and we can't have any Vareniki because they're for tomorrow's Potluck.  So I'm using leftovers for mashed potatoes with some chicken wings.
I am also setting up some of my favorite tools to make the mashed potatoes.  This is a kitchen aid hand mixer thingy (official term) that I absolutely love.  It has all these parts that let you cut up onion, tomatoes, etc into tiny little pieces.  That's another one of my tricks for cutting up onions without tearing.  Anyways, it also has this attachment that you use to mash potatoes.  I'm sure there are many other uses, but I just love mashed potatoes.  It gets them so silky and smooth, you'll make your guests wonder if they're even home made.

So now I'm ready to make some mashed potatoes with onions.  I cooked the onions for a couple of minutes before to get them nice and delicious.  And if you notice, I use sour cream instead of milk and butter.  I think it gives it a better flavor.  Maybe it's a Russian thing.

And the most important part.  I almost always have a glass of red wine while cooking.  It just makes the whole experience better and I feel like a superstar.

Tonight I'm drinking Aqua de Piedra Malbec 2008.  It's an Argentinian red wine that's bold but not too strong.

Another thing you should know about me is that I rarely ever measure things.  I always cook by taste or the looks of things.  So for my mashed potatoes, I usually use about 3-4 table spoons of sour cream, some salt and pepper (I use sea salt so I always put on a bit more than regular salt), a couple of tablespoons of onions that I just cooked, and, sometimes, cheese.  A handful or two sounds good.  This is all for a decent bowl of mashed potatoes that I'll use a cup or two of for the Vareniki and eat the rest for dinner. 

Then I use my awesome masher and mash it all together until it's mixed in.  I start with a couple of spoons of sour cream and add more as I mash the potatoes.  For Vareniki, I like the potatoes to be kinda mushier than usual.

Now we're ready to fill the dough.

I usually spoon just a little less than a teaspoon of mashed potatoes into the round wanton wrapper and use the water in the bowl to seal it.  The water helps the wrappers stick together.

Now you have these.  You should have about 50 of them.  Unless you messed up on the circles.  That happens.  Not to me.  But I hear it happens.

Now get your skillet going again.  I like to throw some of the onions back in there to cook with the Vareniki because it adds flavor.  But it's totally up to you.

So after a good sip of wine, I put the skillet on and get my stuff set up.  I throw 6-8 in the skillet at a time.

And cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side on a medium to medium-high heat.  It's not straight forward because it all depends on your skillet.  My mom and dad bought me this Cuisinart one a couple of years ago and it gets really hot!  So I keep the heat settings a little lower than I usually would.

The dogs sit there and drool.  The big one's a dog we usually sit.  His name is Benny and he might be my favorite dog, even if he's not really our dog.  Benny's a gem.  And I'm pretty sure he loves being at our house as much as we love having him there.  Travis, on the right, needs a hair cut.  I'm getting to it.  Just not while cooking.

Ah! And they're ready.  Those black things are the over-cooked onions.  I personally like them that way but if you don't, throw them out.

And then I stick them into a Russian Tupperware that my grandma sent us a couple of years ago.  Serve with some sour cream while still hot.


  1. These look so good. I have to try your recipe. I grew up on vareniki and just recently made my first batch! My kids were all over them. I did healthify the original recipe. If you want to check it out, here is a link. Looking forward reading more of your recipes :)


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