I said yesterday that I was going to use the leftovers to make ravioli... weellll, I did one better and made Shepard's Pie Pierogies. I wasn't expecting to wind up with leftover vegetables last night, but I did. More carrots than potatoes, but I remedied that by just boiling the end of the potatoes I had purchased and adding them into the mix. I think it was a good idea, too, because it added some clear potato flavor since they weren't cooked with everything else.
Now, you may be wondering, what could you possibly add to something already so delicious and make it even better? The answer, as always, is: Dairy! Seriously. Butter and/or cream (in this case half-and-half) make everything better (unless you're vegan, but I'm not; if you are.... you wouldn't be making this dish anyway, but there will be recipes in here for you, too!). So after boiling the rest of the potatoes I added some butter and half-and-half and whipped out my handy potato masher:
1 Tbs. butterhalf-and-half to taste
I kept the heat on medium low when I was melting the butter and adding the cream. Then I took it off heat because it doesn't need to be cooking to add the meat to it. I was going for about a 1:1 ratio between meat and potato/carrot mix. So just cut enough meat to match the amount of potato/carrot you're working with. Chop it pretty fine, big chunks would be a hassle to work with when assembling the pierogies.
Just take that handy potato masher and mash 'em all together! While you're making the dough, the filling can just rest at room temperature. Or throw it in the fridge - this is what I would do next time. My dough and filling wound up being done at about the same time (I actually made the dough while the potatoes were boiling since that takes a fair amount of time), which meant the filling was a little warm while I was working it, which could have been problematic for the dough. Only one wound up breaking, but next time I plan to roll the dough out more and I would definitely want the filling cold in the case.
For Christmas my dad got me a pasta dough roller, which is probably one of the greatest kitchen inventions ever. It's not even an appliance.. I associate appliances with electricity, and this requires none! It's fabulous:
The towel is also a good trick to know if you're a home pasta maker and don't have a butcher block counter or a big wood cutting board. You do flour the surface of it, and when you're done, bundle it up and shake it out outside. This is less clean up for me than using another cutting board, especially since there's a lot of flour moving around once you start cranking.
Making pasta dough is super easy. I made a double recipe so it was as follows:
3 cups all-purpose flour (though you will need more handy for surfaces and to really finish the dough)
3 eggs (large)
1 cup water
Create a well in the center of the flour for the liquid ingredients. Like so:
Now make your hand into a claw: your own appendage is going to become a kitchen tool! Start swirling the liquid around the bowl, slowly incorporating the flour into the liquid until you get a relatively solid mass. Use both hands to knead the dough into a ball. If the dough is sticky add more flour - I like to cover the outside of the ball and then knead it in. Kneading is best done in a fold-and-palm-press method. Fold the dough over, must it with your palm, repeat for about 10 minutes (I tend to give up early because I get bored... but it's good to do it for the entire amount). The dough should be pleasantly smooth, almost velvety feeling.
Pasta dough is really a learn from experience type thing... But, it's a dough that's very forgiving. You don't have to worry about overworking it, and you can constantly add water or flour to get consistency right. Don't be afraid to add too much flour, because you can always add a little water to loosen things up, and vice-versa.
After you have your dough ready, divide it out into portions. If you don't have a mechanical roller and you're rolling out by hand with a rolling pin, I would just go for two big sheets. Determine the size that's right for you based on the space you'll have available - you need to have even numbers. If you have a straggler, cut him in half and have two smaller pieces. Size really does not matter at this point (this is, like, the only time though). This will become clear in just a minute. But here's my dough all portioned out:
Before rolling each piece, I coated them in flour and gave them one final kneading for good measure. The dough likes to be pretty dry, I've found, when running them through the pasta maker. I only rolled them out to a setting of 2, which left them about 1/8" thick. I would roll them thinner next time, maybe a 4, but I was afraid of them falling apart on me. With my left over dough and filling, I am going to make them thinner. They were very good, but the flavor of the dough was very present, and I want it to be a little more in the background than it was.
Rolled out dough:
Uniform for the most part. If you need to, you can gently tug the edges of the dough and pat them down if you need an extra 1/4" or so. If you're stretching any more than that, stretch at the middle a little bit also otherwise the dough will be thicker in the middle.
Time for filling!
1-2 tsp filling mixture (depending on how wide that particular section of dough is - less room around the edges, less filling. You need enough dough remaining to be able to seal the pierogi without the dough stretching and breaking or the seams popping open.
Put a second layer of dough on top and press down lightly on top of each mound of filling and also around the edges. Basically you're looking to remove air bubbles. Be gentle here. You want to maintain the shape of the filling and you don't want to rip the dough.
They look like a chain of dough eggs!
Now it's time to cut and shape them. I inherited a dough cutter thing from Dan's great-aunt, but a very sharp knife or a sharp biscuit cutter would also do the trick. Basically cut in between each mound so that they're their own autonomous dumplings. Then press gently down around the edges - if you keep this standardized, you wind up with the pretty little dumpling indentations that are now generally done by machine. And then trim away as much excess dough as you want. If you have a dough cutter, you can actually make them almost circular. It takes a little bit of practice, but I was getting pretty good by the time I finished my last pierogi:
To cook them, just get a big pot of water (salted or unsalted, definitely a taste and health preference) boiling and throw them in for about three minutes. When they start floating, take them out. It will be very obvious.
While I waited for the water to boil, I warmed up last night's gravy. I mixed up a quick roux... about two tablespoons water with a couple of inches of water in a bowl. Whisk those together BEFORE adding them to the sauce. Then whisk it into the sauce, put the heat on high, and bring to a boil... whisking a lot. Then bring it back down to a simmer.
Drain your pierogies and mix them with the sauce (I had just enough gravy to give them a nice coating). They also cooked perfectly, which was a pleasant surprise:
Tomorrow I am actually going to make bread dough as well as make the last round of dumplings and freeze them.