Every now and then, I like to back off and get serious in this food column. I know what you’re thinking. You are shaking your head and wondering, “Did Rus sell out to the mega food conglomerates?”
Rest assured, I did not. But when it comes to stuffed peppers, pierogis and Hungarian pastry I am dead spot-on serious. I happen to be half-Hungarian, half Italian. This ethnic mixture enables me to smack someone upside the head while tripping over my own shoelace at the same time.
We love stuffed peppers and pierogis at our house and I must admit I have turned to Stouffer’s and Mrs. T’s at times for both. They are convenient and they taste pretty good. (I have also turned to Stouffer’s and Prego for lasagna and sauce to honor my Italian heritage in a pinch, but that’s a different story.)
First, the stuffed peppers. Much easier than you would think to whip up in the kitchen and only about forty-five minutes from start to finish.
4 Lrg. Green Bell Peppers, Remove Tops and Seeded
1 Lb. Ground Beef
½ Cup Finely Chopped Onions
1 Cup Cooked Rice
Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Enchilada Sauce, (You may use regular tomato sauce. We like ours a little jazzed up.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Parboil the peppers in salted water for 20 minutes, or until softened.
Brown the ground meat, seasoning with garlic salt, salt and pepper, until browned. Drain and add the cooked rice. Combine well and remove from heat.
When the peppers are cooled, drain and place in an ungreased 13-9 baking dish. Fill each pepper with meat mixture, tamp down so you can get as much in as you can. Sprinkle each pepper with parmesan cheese, and then sprinkle breadcrumbs. Sprinkle paprika on each pepper and gently ladle enchilada sauce over all the peppers. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Now for the pierogis, again a lot easier than you would expect. Since I moved to the Deep South ten years ago from the nation’s hot bed of pierogi activity, Chicago, IL, I have found pierogis few and far between. I would ask and get puzzled looks in return, “Where the heck are the pierogis?” I started making my own and when I would serve a plate of pierogis to native Southerners, someone would always ask me, “How’d ya get the taters in the cornbread?”
The key to fabulous pierogis is in the mashed potatoes. They will make you or break you, and if they are lumpy or bland, no one will care how you got the taters in the cornbread.
1 Lb. Peeled Potatoes, Sliced
1 Stick Butter
½ Cup Milk or Heavy Cream
A lot of Salt and Pepper
½ Cup Onion, Finely Chopped
½ Cup Shredded Cheese, Cheddar, Colby or Brick
1 Pkg. Wonton Wraps
Boil the potatoes until softened, remove from heat. Add butter, milk and seasonings. WHIP, the mashed potatoes until creamy, taste for seasoning as you go along. Do not mash the potatoes, you want them silky smooth. Let cool.
Sauté the onions in a little olive oil until softened and remove from heat. When everything is cooled down, combine the whipped potatoes, onions and cheese in a mixing bowl.
Take out a wonton wrap and using a cookie cutter, cut into round shapes, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Place on a floured surface and spoon a tablespoon of potato mixture in the center of each wrapper. Gently fold one side to the other until they meet. Use a fork to crimp the edges together and paint each pierogi with a little egg wash. At this point, you may freeze the pierogis or do one of the following. Sauté in a little butter and olive oil, deep-fry until they are golden brown, or boil them until they float. Serve with butter and/or sour cream and sprinkle a little chopped parsley on them.
The third part of this Hungarian feast is a little more labor intense. It took me until I was about forty to even attempt this. Before that, I had always relied on my Hungarian Nana to come through for me.
4 Cups Flour
1 Lb. Butter, Softened
4 Egg Yolks
8 Oz. Sour Cream
Filling, (See Below)
Pour flour into a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and knead with your hands, until dough is elastic and smooth. Put the dough on a flat plate, cover with wax paper or a damp dishtowel and refrigerate at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut off a hunk of the dough and roll out on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2×2 inch squares and put a tablespoon of filling in each. Shape the dough into a diamond shape. A little of the filling will be exposed on each end. Brush each with an egg wash and place on a cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. After baking dust with powdered sugar. (For the filling, used canned prune, apricot preserves, crushed pineapple or apple pie filling.)
Kiesz, Élo, Jó szórakozást!