Alanna's Nana's Peroghies
Recently Alanna, of Veggie Venture by Kitchen Parade, and I were having a wide-ranging discussion by email and somehow we got on the topic of "carrying on the tradition" of family cooks and treasured recipes.
Alanna (who, in partnership apparently with her whole family, has published a cookbook based on her grandmother's cooking) mentioned her Nana's peroghies (Alanna's family uses the alternate spelling, peroghies, which is apparently Ukranian; for reference, the more widely-used spelling is the Polish pierogi)....I asked her if I could have the recipe and she generously sent it along. She also gave me permission to publish it, so her original MS Word file is available by clicking HERE .
I tried it this week and I have to say, even though two of my grandparents were born in a village on the Polish-Ukranian border, this was one of the more humbling experiences I've had in a kitchen. Alanna's recipe is quite thorough and filled with "get-it-right" tips, but still there were a thousand twists on this road! They were good to eat, in the end, but I don't think I made even one that looked exactly the way I think they should look.
I'm not a huge perfectionist in the kitchen, as you can probably tell from the pictures on this site, but there is a certain way these little guys should look: nice little half moons, not too big, nice and plump where the filling is and thin, delicate edges where you can see 6-8 depressions made by the assembler's fingertips. Without going into too much detail, none of mine achieved all of these characteristics at once.
It just goes to show it takes experience to do this kind of thing well, which is something that can't be captured in a recipe! I once lived next to Chinatown in Boston, and I would stop in one of the restaurants for tea at an off hour and find most of the staff sitting around a large table, relaxing and chatting...and turning out perfect wontons with their fingers, at a speed of what looked like twenty a minute. The day I tried wontons I made 6 good ones in ten minutes, maybe. I'm sure Alanna's Nana had it down like that, and never thought for a minute about what she was doing as she cranked out batch after batch of perfect peroghies for her family, year after year.
I'm grateful to Alanna for allowing me the chance to try the recipe, and I definitely enjoy eating them. But I think that, like sushi (which I love), I'll leave the making of peroghies to the pros from now on, because if I'm going to eat them (which I am) I'd like them to be perfect, and I just know I'm never going to make enough of them to achieve the skill level required to make them that well!