pelmeni and perogi

The Year of the Dumpling continues! We first had pelmeni, a Russian meat dumpling topped with sour cream, at our friends Yevgenia and Austin’s house, another couple with a deep affection for dumplings. But before we get into dumplings, let’s talk about the Davises. Yevgenia and Austin radiate positivity. I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase ‘joie de vivre’ and meant it seriously, but these two embody it. I leave an evening with them feeling like I’ve spent a week on a wellness retreat. Now, I don’t have much firsthand experience with wellness retreats, and probably won’t need to as long as we’re friends with the Davises, but I’ve seen it in the movies.

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This recipe is based on Yevgenia’s mother’s recipe, which I tried my best to decode while making dumplings at the Davis house. This is another case of simple is best. Lamb, pork, onion, salt. Done. The lamb is makes this dish. It’s so good. Earthy and distinct.

The potato perogi recipe is inspired by a product that Trader Joe’s sold when Jordan and I where in high school. Amateur gourmets we were, we’d cook the perogis in the microwave and then dip them alternatively in marinara sauce and balsamic vinegar. Tragically, Trader Joe’s has discontinued their perogis, which left us no choice but to make our own. Think twice baked potato wrapped in dumpling skin and you’ve got the flavor profile.

And, lastly, before you think, “Sour cream and vinegar. You monster! Have all of those dumplings gone to your head?!”. Try it. It is so good.

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Perogi – Cheese and Potato Dumplings
Makes 24 dumplings
3 red potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 yellow onion, grated
salt and pepper
~1/2 package dumpling wrappers (Asian dumpling wrappers work just fine)

Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Put them in a medium saucepan and top with cold water. Bring to a boil and boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them with a fork. Add the sour cream, cheddar cheese, onion and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure they’re well seasoned now, bland dumplings will be a tragic waste of effort.

Lay out a few rows of dumpling wrappers. Put about a tablespoon of filling in the middle, brush the edges with a  little water, and then fold over and seal. These are a half moon shaped dumpling.

To cook the dumplings, you can boil them or pan fry them. Both are delicious. They will take just a few minutes in boiling water—enough to warm them and melt the cheese. If you like your dumplings a little crispy, pan fry them until they are golden in spots. Serve with sour cream, white vinegar and dill.



Pelmeni – Lamb and Pork Dumplings
Makes 36 dumplings 
1/2 lb lamb shoulder, ground on the small die (or ground lamb)
1/2 lb pork shoulder, ground on the small die (or ground pork)
1/2 yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
~1 package dumpling wrappers (Asian dumpling wrappers work just fine)
sour cream
white vinegar
fresh dill

In a large bowl, combine your ground lamb and ground pork. Like I’ve previously mentioned, my husband is a huge fan of his meat grinder and so I let him grind some lamb and pork shoulder fresh for me. We’re fancy like that. You can feel free to use pre-ground lamb or pork. Make sure your pork is fatty.

Combine the lamb, pork, grated onion, garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. I’d start with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Then do a little taste test by cooking up a small piece. It’s worth the extra effort now to make sure your seasoning is spot on.

Lay out your dumpling wrappers. Put a scant tablespoon of filling into the center of each dumpling. Brush the edges with a little water using your finger. Fold in half and seal. Then fold the two corners onto one another to create a tortolini type of shape.

To cook the dumplings, bring a pot of water to boil. Boil the dumplings for about 5-8 minutes, until they are floating, Then scoop them out of the water and into a bowl. Top generously with sour cream, white vinegar and dill.




the year of the dumpling

We’ve been on a bit of a dumpling kick lately. Eating dumplings at spots all around the city, making our own at home, forcing friends to work for their dinners, being forced by friends to work for ours. We’re affectionately referring to this obsession as the Year of the Dumpling, but based on how things are going, it may evolve into the Decade of the Dumpling.

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I have a backlog of dumpling recipes to share, but I’m thinking it’s best to start with a classic. Basic pork dumplings. A little garlic, ginger, scallions, and that’s about it. When I was doing research, it seems that many recipes also call for cabbage, sesame oil, onions and pepper, which we added the first time we made these. The second time, we forgot those other ingredients and no one was the wiser. Simple wins.

I like my dumplings with vinegar, a good amount of it. Jordan likes chili oil. We joined forces for this sauce—if joining forces can be described as mixing together two ingredients in a bowl. If you like spicy, make the sauce. If you don’t, mix a little soy sauce and rice vinegar in a dish. Or just eat the dumplings plain. Everyone is free to eat their dumplings however they like, we accept all forms of dumpling eatery.

Dumplings also freeze exceptionally well, which is handy because this recipe makes about fifty. I love dumplings, but I can’t eat fifty in one sitting. Yet. Make sure to take the frozen-factor into account when steaming or pan frying, they’ll take a few extra minutes to cook. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re nervous if there isn’t a bag of dumplings in the freezer. (Trader Joe’s frozen gyoza are also really good, if you’re in the mood to eat dumplings but not to make them yourself). Dumplings are perfect for a quick, weeknight dinner. Steam some rice, sauté some greens, fry up a few dumplings and you’ve got yourself a great meal. We have it at least once a week.

Basic Pork Dumpling with Chili Sauce
1 lb pork shoulder, cut into cubes and ground with a meat grinder (or ground pork, the fattier, the better)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 package of dumpling wrappers (about 50 wrappers)

For the Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons sambal oelek chili sauce (find it at any Asian grocery for $1.70, or substitute sriracha)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

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Cut the pork shoulder into 1 inch cubes and sprinkle with salt. Chill in the freezer for 20 minutes, then grind on the fine die with your meat grinder. Or, if you don’t have a husband who loves to grind meat, purchase some ground pork from your butcher. Make sure it isn’t too lean. A little fat means juicy dumplings.

Mix the ground pork, garlic, ginger, scallions and soy sauce together until everything is evenly distributed. Lay out a few rows of dumpling wrappers on a baking sheet or countertop. Put a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Using your finger, moisten the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold in half and crimp the edges.

To cook, heat a small amount of water in a pot and top with a steamer or colander. Line the steamer with some parchment paper so your dumplings don’t get stuck to the steamer. Plan to cook at least 10 dumplings per person—they go down easy. Steam the dumplings for about 5 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160° F. I recommend using a thermometer to check the temperature until you get your steaming technique down. If you let the dumplings go too long, the pork filling can end up a bit dry and crumbly instead of juicy and succulent. Top with chili sauce and enjoy!