Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas Cheer In A Little Doughy Pillow, Smothered In Butter

When you're younger, you rely on your parents (chiefly your mother) to handle all communication and planning with relatives. Holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduation parties. Parents tell you where you need to be, explain your absence if you don't show, and sign your name to cards you had no idea were being sent. They are the keepers of traditions, the deliverers of news, the reminders to send thank you notes, and the passers of the phone during long distance calls. "Here, Briana wants to say hi now... here you go just passing the phone over... love you bye!"

And little by little, as we grow older, we become responsible for handling some of these tasks on our own. I mean, not all of these tasks. Not by a long shot. But still, we have to start holding our own. I'm reminded of a line from one of my favorite things ever, The Thanksgiving Letter:
"Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level."
I think that about sums up the mentality... even if it's just in my own head and not really imposed on me by anyone in the fam.

Anyway, so this year, since Katie and I were not flying back east to spend Christmas with the 'rents, and were apparently uncomfortable with having a totally relaxing holiday, we took it upon ourselves to uphold the tradition of our late grandma by making pierogies for Christmas Eve dinner.

We have fond memories of spending the morning of Christmas Eve in Grandma's kitchen, rolling out dough, mixing up potato filling, and working for hours to assemble what seemed like thousands (but was probably at least a hundred) pierogies for that night's dinner. When complete, we'd line them all up on "pierogie boards," which were just big planks of wood resting on the washing machine in the corner, where they'd sit until being boiled and fried up. Then served with gallons of butter and onions.

So, in the days before Christmas, I got the recipe and instructions from my Aunt Mary, read them over, panicked at their complexity, and wondered if I really wanted to go through with it.
But no, there's no backing out. Grandma would be proud of our efforts.

On the morning of the culinary adventure, I went to the store and bought potatoes, onions, flour, cottage cheese, butter and more butter. The grocery store crowd was just as horrendous as I thought it would be. But I made it out in one piece... though later in the day than planned.

Back at home I prepped the potato filling. Katie showed up just in time to start the dough disaster. The doughsaster, if you will.

Add water and egg to flour.

Then stir, while holding your Blackberry displaying the recipe in your other hand, because printing out the email with the directions would've been too simple. Also, note beer in background. The recipe calls for beer to be consumed during pierogie-making. Namely Budweiser, but I was in a Blue Moon mood.

What you wind up with is a doughy blob with the consistency of pudding and the stickiness of chewing gum. It seemed wrong, and probably was. But as we added more flour and kneaded the dough for a bit, it wound up seeming more like what dough is meant to be.

Next, roll out the dough. Get frustrated, wad the dough back into a ball. Roll again. Defend your crappy rolling pin against criticism from sister and husband. It got the job done, after all.

Then add a spoonful of potato filling and pinch the pierogie shut, praying it's sealed well enough to hold onto its contents during boiling.

Next, move completed pierogie over to... oh crap, we don't have a pierogie board. Hmm. This bamboo tray will have to do.

Keep assembling pierogies all through the afternoon, making them progressively larger and sloppier as patience wears thin.

Then, it's time to switch up the clothing and the cocktail, and get cooking! Boiling the pierogies first, then transferring them to a frying pan with chopped onions and an absurd amount of butter -- Your guests will look at the pan and ask, "Seriously?" At least, ours did.

But the results are spectacular.

Look at all these happy faces. The pierogies were a hit!

And that, Lisa, is how you contribute at the adult level.


  1. I'm sad I missed this. We might need to do a little Christmas in July action.

  2. You make a mother proud!
    you are amazing women!
    Pierogies....keeping the Wojcik family tradition and Spirit(s?) alive and..... buttery!

  3. Bri - now not only did you make me laugh but you made me sad because maybe you could have brought leftover pierogies to new years. meh.
    On a different note.. you are expected to get back into running... I will not be happy going out to Utica without you! I would just be wrong... so get on that :) please...