Category Archives: Recipes

Chicken Adobo

This take on a Filipino favorite takes on a deep reddish-brown hue from a quick braise in a soy sauce and vinegar marinade and stock and a smoky grilled flavor from finishing over a hot grill or cast iron grill pan.

Chicken Adobo

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless drumstick pieces
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
  1. Wash and thoroughly dry chicken pieces then place in a large glass or ceramic bowl
  2. Place all of the other ingredients except the palm sugar  and chicken broth in a blender and pulse until liquefied to create the marinade/cooking broth..
  3. Reserve an 1/8th cup of marinade and set aside.
  4. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and massage in well.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at lest 3 hours.
  6. One hour before cooking remove the chicken from the fridge and mix the reserved marinade with the palm sugar until it dissolves
  7. Place chicken and marinade into a medium sized saucepan.
  8. Add enough chicken broth to nearly cover the chicken and heat over medium high and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until legs are just cooked through.
  9. 5 minutes before chicken is done simmering, put a cast iron pan over a medium high heat.
  10. Once chicken is nearly done, remove from broth and allow to drain for a few seconds.
  11. Transfer chicken to cast iron pan, and brush with sauce.
  12. Sear for 2-3 minutes then turn a 1/3 turn and brush with sauce until all surfaces are grilled nicely and lightly glazed.
  13. Remove from heat, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  14. Serve with steamed rice or a fresh salad.

 

 

Review: Little Saigon’s Beef Phở

Little Saigon 
1015 N Broadway St
 Wichita, Kansas 67214

Here in Wichita another long, hot Kansas summer is quickly approaching. For many people the coming of the summer heat means the end of soup weather, so this post may seem a little untimely.   Yet there are some soups that seem custom-made for the heat of summer; the Beef Phở  from Little Saigon on N. Broadway is one of these soups.

Like most soups, this Vietnamese delicacy begins with a broth; in this case, a lightly flavored beef broth into which a melange of sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon, black cardamom, and coriander seed), charred onion and ginger have slowly been infused.    This exotically scented broth is then ladled over a hearty nest of fine rice noodles, fresh cilantro, shavings of red onion, and thin–almost translucent–slices of beef, which cooks instantly with the heat of the broth.  A platter of accompaniments that include crisp and cool bean sprouts,  spicy sliced fresh jalapeno, tart lime wedges and herbaceous, anise-y Thai basil is served on the side.  These garnishes add a freshness to the soup and are what makes this an ideal meal for a hot languid summer afternoon.

Below is my version of Little Saigon’s Beef Phở.  The recipe makes 3-4 very large bowls of soup if served as a main course or 6-10 if served as a soup course. Enjoy!

Beef Phở

Time: 4.5 hours.

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 3-4 (Main Course) or 6-10 (soup course)

Ingredients

  •  5 lbs of beef soup bones
  •  1 large onion, peeled and  chopped in half
  •  1″ piece of ginger, peeled
  •  1 bag of pho spices (these are available at most Asian markets)
  •  1 lb of fresh or dried thin rice noodles.
  •  1 lb of beef, thinly sliced
  •  1 bunch of cilantro
  •  1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  •  2 tablespoons of fish sauce

Garnishes

  •  1/2 lb of fresh bean sprouts
  •  2 jalapenos, sliced or 10 small red and green Thai chillies, sliced
  •  several large sprigs of Thai basil
  •  2 limes, quartered

Procedure

Making the broth

  1. Soak beef bones in enough cool, salted water to cover.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to remove impurities.
  2. While the bones are soaking, place the onion and ginger into the oven and broil on top rack until onion and ginger start to char a little, turn and char on all sides being careful not to burn the aromatics.
  3. Drain and rinse the bones.
  4. Put the drained and rinsed beef bones into a clean stockpot and add just enough cold water to cover (~1 gallon).   Add charred onion and ginger to stockpot.
  5. Heat stockpot on medium high heat until bubbles just break the surface, one bubble every second or two.  Adjust heat so that this level of simmering is maintained.  Caution: DO NOT boil (boiling will turn your broth cloudy and less clean-tasting.)
  6. Slowly simmer the bones for 3-4 hours, removing the scum as if forms.
  7. While the broth is cooking, put beef in freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up.
  8. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice beef against the grain as thinly as possible.  Once sliced put beef in a zip lock bag and add ~1 tablespoon of fish sauce.  Place in refrigerator to marinate until needed.
  9. After about 2 and a half hours, remove fat from top of broth with a turkey-baster.
  10. Add spice bag then simmer for 1 more hour.
  11. Remove bones, onion, ginger and spice bag and discard then add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce  and the juice of 1 lime to the broth
  12. Allow broth to continue simmering while finishing the soup.

Finishing the soup.

  1. Cook noodles as per instruction on bag.
  2. Evenly divide noodles and beef among the bowls, and to each bowl add a small handful of cilantro leaves, and a few shavings of red onion.
  3. Ladle hot broth into each bowl and allow to stand for a minute to cook beef before serving.
  4. Serve with large communal platter of bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno peppers (or finely sliced Thai peppers), lime wedges, and Thai basil.
  5. Season to taste with additional fish sauce, soy sauce, or salt.

Review: El Pollo Dorado al Carbon

El Pollo Dorado al Carbon

W. 21st N. and N. Wellington Pl.

Wichita, KS 67203

*Cash Only

If you drive down W. 21st St in Wichita in the late afternoon, chances are that by the time you approach the 200 block you will notice that the air takes on the delicious scent of mesquite smoke and grilled meat. This delightful aroma emanates from a bright yellow food truck, El Pollo Dorado al Carbon (or more accurately the large charcoal grill next to the truck) that can often be found on the north-east corner of W 21st and Wellington.

This truck does one thing–charcoal-grilled chicken–and it does it very well. Out of the small window of the vehicle pieces of chicken, golden/orange from marinating in achiote paste and other herbs and spices, magically appear with a small selection of salsas, ranchero beans, and freshly cooked corn tortilla. The chicken–lightly-spiced and scented with mesquite smoke–is succulent, tender, unctuous, unbelievably flavorful, and grilled to perfection.

IMAG0623

The accompaniments are just as delicious. The ranchero beans are flavored with the traditional bean-herb epazote that for some can be an acquired taste, but they are plentiful and served piping hot. The corn tortillas are soft, hot and delicious; the light perfume created by the nixtamalization process is the perfect compliment to the aroma of the grilled chicken. On the night my wife and I visited El Pollo Dorado, we were served three salsas: a garlicky salsa de arbol that would have turned cardboard into a gourmet meal (and have driven-off vampires for at least a two-block radius), a light guacamole laced with habanero peppers and lime juice, and a thin and deceptively spicy, habanero-spiked citrus salsa that I would buy by the tub if it were commercially available.

Like most food trucks in the area, cash is the only form of payment.  Half a bird with sides was $8.95 + tax while a whole bird with sides runs $13.95 + tax.  It is worth every penny… .

Recipe: Thai Chicken and Basil

Thai food is one of the world’s great cuisines.  I discovered this a  teenager growing up in Australia when the irresistible aromas coming from a newly opened restaurant lured me in, while the combination of spice, salt, sweet, and sour that is characteristic of Thai food hooked me completely.

This recipe, an adaptation of one of Thailand’s most famous dishes, Pad Krapow, has a depth of flavor that belies its simplicity.  The entire process, from chopping the ingredients to serving, takes no more than 30 minutes.  Some of the more exotic ingredients may be hard to find at your local mega-market but if you live in a town with a sizable Asian population, you will most likely be able to find a specialty Asian grocer that stocks everything you need (and much, much more).

Thai Chicken and Basil

Ingredients

  •  1 lb of boneless chicken breast or thighs, chopped finely
  •  1 cup of Thai basil leaves (or better yet, holy basil if you can find it)
  •  4 cloves of garlic, minced
  •  1/4 of a medium-sized onion, finely diced
  •  1 teaspoon of red or green Thai pepper, finely chopped (~ two peppers)
  •  1 teaspoon of pad prik khing paste (or red curry paste)
  •  1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  •  1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  •  1/2 tablespoon of kecap manis (a sweet, thick soy sauce) *
  •  1 tablespoon of brown sugar (or palm sugar)
  •  1 and 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  •  1/3 cup of water

*Note: If kecap manis is unavailable add an extra teaspoon of dark soy and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar.

Instructions.

Important:  Prepare and assemble all ingredients and place them somewhere within easy reach of the cook top where you will be working.  Once the cooking starts it goes very quickly and needs almost constant attention.

  1. Heat a medium-sized wok, or a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat until very hot.
  2. Add oil to pan and immediately add onions and garlic.  Stir fry until aromatic ~10 to 15 seconds making sure not to let the garlic scorch.
  3. Add the chicken to the wok and stir to mix the onions, garlic and chicken together.
  4. Stir fry until the chicken just begins to lightly brown about 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the pad prik khing or red curry paste and stir fry for a few seconds to coat the meat.
  6. Add the Thai chili, soy sauce, kecap manis, sugar, and the fish sauce to the wok.  Let cook for 1 minute, stirring every few seconds.
  7. Add the water to the wok and cook for another minute, stirring mixture occasionally.
  8. Add basil leaves then stir to mix the basil into the mixture. Continue to cook the mixture until basil is just wilted then remove from heat ~ 15 seconds. Serve.

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Steamed jasmine rice is a perfect partner for this dish.  If you are looking a for a light meal or are counting carbs, place 1 or 2 tablespoons of the Thai Chicken and Basil into lettuce leaves (soft lettuces like butter or bibb work best), and eat like a little green taco.

Cheese and Bacon Rolls

In and around the Sydney area of New South Wales, Australia early morning is heralded by the smell of crusty bread wafting from bake shops that dot the landscape.  Bakeries like these are very few and far between in the US and none of them I have found sell what is the pinnacle of the baker’s art (well at least in my opinion) – the Cheese and Bacon Roll.   These little bits of heaven consist of french bread – crisp and crusty on the outside, soft and light in the center – topped with a combination of bacon and cheddar cheese and cooked until the cheese becomes brown, nutty and toasted.  Here is my version of this Aussie bake shop classic.

Ingredients

550g AP Flour
250mL of water
125mL of whole milk
7g of instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbls olive oil
1 cup of grated cheese
50g of finely chopped bacon or country ham.

Procedure

Note:  All weights and volumes have been expressed in metric for the simple fact that weighing in grams and measuring in mL is much more accurate than using imperial measurements.

  1. Weigh out flour and yeast then add liquid ingredients. Mix until dough just comes together, cover and allow to autolyse for 1 hr.  This step helps build gluten.
  2. Add salt to dough and mix using a dough hook on medium speed for 7-8 minutes or knead for 8-10 minutes.  Place dough in a large bowl that has been greased with olive oil, cover and place in a warm spot.
  3. Allow to rise until volume of dough has doubled.
  4. Gently deflate dough by folding the corners into the middle.
  5. Divide dough into 8 balls of equal size ~ 125g each, and place dough balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat silicone mat.
  6. Make a small indent in each dough ball and sprinkle bacon and cheese on dough.  Allow dough to rise until nearly doubled in size.
  7. Bake in a HOT 425 F oven until cheese is toasted and bread is golden brown.   To make a crispier crust, toss 6 or 7 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to create steam at the start of baking.

Best served warm.

Easy Beef Stew

Nothing is better on a cold and grey winter day than a steaming bowl of hearty stew served with fresh-baked crusty bread.  The tender chunks of beef, potato and carrot, combined with the thick rich onion-laced gravy create a delicious meal that will warm the soul, if not the temperature outside.  This sumptuous and easy to make stew gets its depth of flavor from sweet-savory caramelized onions, red wine, and long, slow simmering.  When it comes to stews the most important ingredient is time.

I like to use a heavy enameled dutch oven to cook the stew as it provides more even heating (which prevents sticking and burning) and it does a much better job of caramelizing the ingredients than a non-stick pan.  Do not use a crock-pot to cook this recipe; while crockpots may be convenient, these do not heat up enough to produce the depth of flavor that makes a great tasting dish.

Ingredients.
  • 1 1/2 lbs of stew beef cut into 1/2″ cubes.
  • 3 medium potatoes roughly chopped into 1 inch cubes.
  • 1 medium onion cut in eights lengthwise.
  • 1 large onion roughly diced.
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced.
  • 1/4 cup of tomato ketchup. 
  • 3 large carrots chopped into 1 inch pieces.
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced.
  • 1 pinch of dried oregano.
  • 1 pinch of dried thyme.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley.
  • 1 bay leaf.
  • Beef broth.
  •  1/4 cup of your favorite inexpensive red wine. 
  •  Olive oil (or bacon drippings).
Instructions.
  1. Heat an enameled  dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot.
  2. Add ~ 1 tsp of oil or drippings and the roughly diced onion,  reduce heat to medium and slowly cook the onions until they begin to caramelize to a light golden color.  Add the finely minced garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until garlic no longer smells raw.
  3. Add wine to the pan to de-glaze.  Scrape the fond off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Cook for another minute or so until the alcohol is cooked off then remove the caramelized onions from pan.  Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. 
  4. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, turn heat to medium-high and brown the meat in several batches.  Don’t stir meat too often, you want the meat to brown nicely and leave its fond on the bottom of the pan. 
  5. Once all of the meat has been browned, add the carrots, cooked and raw onion, and bay leaf .  Cook until the onion just starts to turn translucent.
  6. Add enough beef broth to just about cover meat, stir in herbs, spices, and ketchup then season well with kosher salt.  Bring to a slow simmer, layer the potatoes on top and reduce heat to low.
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours or until meat is tender and the potatoes have started to cook down. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.   Allow to cool and place in refrigerator overnight; this allows the flavors to mingle and intensify.
  8. Before serving, heat stew over medium-low heat until hot.  If you like, a cupful of frozen peas or mixed vegetables makes a tasty addition.   
  9. Serve with fresh crusty bread and a glass of your favorite red wine.

French Onion Soup

As fall approaches and the nights get longer and the days become cooler, nothing is quite as soul-satisfying as a steaming bowl of  home-made soup.  And one of the least expensive, easiest to prepare, and most flavorful of soups is French Onion. When prepared slowly this perennial favorite develops a rich, deep satisfying flavor that belies the simplicity of the recipe.  All that is needed to transform onions into a sweet, complexly flavored soup is patience and long slow cooking.

Ingredients:
  • 2lbs of white, yellow or sweet onions, finely sliced.     
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.     
  • 1 tsp salt     
  • 1 tsp sugar  (if using sweet onions like Vidalia, omit the sugar).    
  • 3 tbsp of butter     
  • 5 cups of beef broth.     
  • 2 tbsp of dried onions     
  • a pinch of thyme     
  • 1 bay leaf.     
Method:
  • In a large dutch oven heat butter over medium low heat until melted.     
  •  Add the onions and the garlic to the butter and stir until the vegetables are coated with butter.  Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, add salt and sugar, and place a lid on the dutch oven.      
  • Cook onions for 45 minutes stirring once or twice to help the vegetables cook evenly.  At the end of the 45 minutes the onions should be translucent and very soft and sweet with quite a bit of liquid being released.     
  • Remove lid from pan and turn heat up to medium low and allow most of the liquid to gently simmer away. Do not boil the mixture.     
  • Once most of the liquid has evaporated add 1 tablespoons of butter, turn heat to low and cook onions slowly stirring occasionally.  After 20 minutes of slow cooking the onions should begin to take on a nice brown hue.  Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to speed up the process as it is very easy to burn the sugars and ruin the dish.  The longer this process takes, the deeper and more complex the final flavor of the soup.     
  • Stir the onions more often as they get deeper in color, making sure to scrape off the fond that sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once the caramelization process begins it doesn’t take long for the onions to fully caramelize and turn a deep mahogany color.     
Caramelized Onions
  • De-glaze the pan by adding  1/2 cup of beef broth (or a good red wine if you have one handy).     
  • Add the remaining beef broth, dried onion flakes, and herbs to the pot and simmer very slowly over low heat for 1 hour or until ready to serve.     

  • Adjust seasoning to taste before serving.     
  • Serve with a crusty, lightly toasted baguette (with or without cheese) and a crisp, cool salad.     

Enjoy!

Adventures in Ginger Beer: Getting the Bug.

August finds Mindelei and I in a new house in a new city in a new state, so it seems the perfect time to begin a new project: brewing ginger beer. 

This new adventure is inspired by a super-simple and cost-effective recipe  in Sandor Katz’s “Wild Fermentation” for a wild-fermented ginger beer.  While I’ve not made ginger beer before, I remember my dad and brother making a few batches about 30 years ago; finding this recipe brought back memories. 

Unlike other recipes that use a “ginger beer plant,”  Katz’s  recipe harvests the wild yeast in the environment to produce what Katz’s calls a “bug.” It is this basic recipe that I am using as the basis for my first adventure into brewing ginger beer.   

Where Katz’s original recipe for the bug calls for 2 teaspoons of sugar, I have substituted 5g (1/6oz) of golden raisins for 1 teaspoon of the sugar to innoculate the bug with yeast.  Given that I used city water for the process, I boiled the water for about 5 minutes then allowed it to cool to help get rid of the chlorine, other volatile nasties, and unwelcome micro-organisms.

 Ginger Beer “Bug” Recipe.

2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger root.

1 teaspoon of sugar.

1/6 oz of golden raisins (1 heaping teaspoon)

1 cup of water, boiled for 5 minutes then cooled.

– Once the water had cooled to about body temperature, add all of the ingredients to a large glass or mason jar and cover the container with a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel. 

– Place the jar in a warm spot to start the fermentation.

– For the next few days, the bug will need to be fed 1 teaspoon each of freshly grated ginger and sugar every day or two until the fermentation process is well underway.

Check back in the next couple of days as I blog about the “bug” as it develops.

Day 2.

There were no obvious signs of fermentation when I fed the bug its dose of fresh ginger and sugar at 8:00am this morning. 

Day 4.

There are still no obvious signs of fermentation in the bug but the supernatant liquor is becoming the typical “ginger beer brown” color.

Day 7.

Still no fermentation in the bug but a quite beautiful strain of white fluffy mold has found a new home.  Oh well, I guess I’ll start again and hope for better results. 

Escabeche: Pickled Jalapenos with Vegetables.

In 2002/2003, Mindelei and I lived in Houston, Texas.  While neither of us miss the heat, humidity or traffic, we both miss the excellent and often inexpensive Mexican food that the city has to offer.  Countless taquerias, cantinas, taco trucks, and restaurants dot the landscape turning the Houston metro area into a Mexican food-lover’s paradise.

One of our favorite places to eat was a small Mexican hole-in-the-wall just up the road from our apartment where upbeat Mexican pop and traditional music rang out from the jukebox, bright and colorful throw rugs decorated the walls, and the enticing aromas coming from the kitchen all but guaranteed a good meal was in the offing.  Just as in many Mexican restaurants across the country, a large bowl of freshly-cooked tortilla chips and two (sometimes three) salsas were brought to the table at the beginning of the meal.  However, unlike many other restaurants, a bowl of jalapeno escabeche was also served. It was here that I fell in love with this simple but delicious dish of pickled jalapenos with vegetables. The acidic tang of the pickling brine combined with the crisp bite of the peppers was a superb way to begin a meal, while the heat of the peppers was perfect excuse for an ice-cold margarita or a malty Dos Equis. Depending on the season, the ingredients of the pickle changed; it wasn’t uncommon to find small but crunchy florets of cauliflower, cubes of tender-crisp chayote, or even a few serrano peppers added to the mix.

The following recipe is our basic version of this delicious pickle:

Escabeche Recipe.

~20-25  jalapenos (1lb -1.5lbs) sliced in halves lengthwise.  I prefer to leave the seeds in the pepper but they can be removed if you wish.

1 large white or yellow onion, cut in 8 wedges.

3 carrots, thinly sliced into rounds.

1 cup of cauliflower florets broken into small pieces (optional).

1 head of garlic, cloves separated, crushed and peeled.

3 cups water

1 and 3/4 cups of vinegar.  We mainly use distilled white vinegar as it has a neutral flavor but a good apple cider vinegar (or mix of the two) could also be used.

1 Tbs of kosher or pickling salt.  Iodized table salt is NOT recommended for this recipe.

2 Tbs white sugar.

1 Tbs of extra-virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp of dried oregano or two 2 inch sprigs of the fresh herb.

– In a medium sauce pan made out of non-reactive materials, add the olive oil, a pinch of the salt, carrots, onion, and garlic.  Saute on low heat until the onion and carrot just starts to soften and the onion begins to become translucent ~ 3-4 minutes.

– To the carrots and onion, add water, vinegar, the remaining salt, sugar, bay leaves and oregano to the pot and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Continue heating the pickling liquid until it just begins to bubble slowly at the sides of the pot, then taste the brine for seasoning.  Adjust the seasoning as necessary.  There should be a good balance of flavors in the pickling brine; adding more sugar helps mellow the harsh acidity of the vinegar, while the salt helps ensure the pickling brine does not become too sweet.

– Turn the heat under the brine to low and then add jalapenos (and cauliflower if you are using it) to the pot. You don’t want to boil the brine as this will affect the texture of the vegetables. Part of what makes these pickles so delicious is the toothsome crunch of the vegetables.

– Cook the jalapenos, stirring frequently, until they take on an olive-drab color (~ 5-7 minutes).  At this point remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool.  I like to speed up the cooling process to help preserve the pickles crunchiness by placing the entire covered pot directly into a sink filled with ice and water.

– Once cool, transfer the pickles and pickling brine to a clean, dry vessel and place in the fridge.  A large (80 oz) pickle jar works perfectly for storing the escabeche.

– Although it is tempting to dig in and savour the results immediately, allow the jalapenos to sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours to finish the pickling process.

Mindelei and I like to eat these as a healthy and flavorful snack while watching TV or surfing the web.  The jalapenos are excellent on nachos or in tacos when sliced thinly, and although I have not yet tried this yet, it would be easy to turn the peppers into home-made jalapeno poppers.

Happy eating!!

Note: This escabeche must be kept in a refrigerator where it will last for about a week to ten days (if you can resist the temptation that is) and the pickling liquid makes a tasty hot sauce .  This is NOT a suitable recipe for the long-term preservation of peppers.

Pierogies Gone Wild!

While I wouldn’t say that our closets are full of skeletons, I can say that there are plenty of family secrets to go around. A big one is that my maternal grandfather’s side of the family is actually Russian. While this may not be a surprise to you, there are many members of our family who are still not aware of this fact. For whatever political reason at the time, when our family first came over in the early part of the 20th century they pretended to be Polish. I’m not sure if this ruse was underway when they first lived in Pennsylvania or if they waited until they arrived just south of Manistee in Michigan. To this day Manistee has a solid population with Polish heritage. My only question: where are all the Polish restaurants to go with these people?

Platter of Pierogies

In an effort to fit into the area, my grandfather’s family not only learned to speak the language, but they also learned how to prepare many spectacular dishes as well. Today I’d like to share a few of our family secrets (be they ours or borrowed as the case may be) as well as some improvements that we’ve made along the way.  Ever since I can remember, I helped my mother and grandmother make the perogies that we’ve grown to love. What most of the family doesn’t know is that after I was about eight years old, nearly every time platters (or crockpots as the case may be) of perogies were brought to a family event, I was the one who was making them  – not my grandmother. Shhh…this family secret is definitely out of the bag. Not only did I have a knack for it, but it was one less thing she had to worry about making for the meal.

The recipe for the filling goes back to my grandfather’s mother (if not further back in our family tree), the original dough recipe (which I would love to relocate) was changed in the 1980s, and my husband Nigel began making the cheese when we were living in Houston because we couldn’t find the right kind of farmer’s cheese down there. Who knew that farmer’s cheese varied across the U.S.?

Andrulis  Farmer's Cheese
Cheese Straight from Andrulis Farms in Fountain, Michigan. (Photo from their website)

Although many of you have probably only seen the potato-cheese fillings available at your local freezer, I actually don’t believe I’ve ever had one. I’m not saying it’s not authentic in some way, I’m just saying that it isn’t popular in my neck of the woods.  The farmer’s cheese that can be found in Northern Michigan is similar to a very dry cottage cheese, but it can be rather pricey!  While it is available to purchase locally, a package generally ranges from $6.99-$10.99 per pound. You can purchase Andrulis Farmer’s Cheese directly from the company in Fountain for around $5.80 per pound.  However, this is still a bit much for my frugal nature.  Fortunately, when we were living in Houston and this type of farmer’s cheese wasn’t available, Nigel came across a recipe and altered to serve our purposes.  So it will merely cost you a bit more than the price of a gallon of milk to make the cheese (oh, and a little time as well).

For those of you who aren’t quite adventurous enough to attempt cheese making (trust me, this will probably be onePerogies in the Fry Pan with Butter of the easiest cheeses that doesn’t give off a stench that you’ll ever make), or if you’re not sure that you really want to see what this farmer’s cheese is all about (it’s very mild in flavor), there are a few other fillings that are more mainstream which you might enjoy: shredded ham and cheddar cheese, pizza sauce with mozzarella and mini pepperoni or ham, or even sauerkraut.  In fact, I think the sauerkraut filling might just be Nigel’s favorite (of course, that could be because he developed the recipe himself). Regardless, you should find them pretty tasty and easier on the wallet than buying several boxes in your freezer department or heading out to a restaurant that makes them.

Below are the ingredients that you will need for to make the cheese, the filling, and the dough.

Cheese:
1 gallon of fresh whole milk
¼ cup of vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cheesecloth

Filling:
2 bricks of Farmer’s Cheese (or the curd from the cheese you’ve made)
2 eggs
salt to taste
chives to taste

Dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
bowl to cover
flour sifter
platter

Perogie Creation:
4″ round cookie cutter OR coffee can
Cup of water
Pot of boiling water
Frying pan (preferably cast iron with butter or margarine)

Making the Cheese:
1. Put cold milk into a non-reactive pot (enamel, stainless steel, etc.) and heat to 180F over medium-low heat while stirring constantly.
2. Once milk is at temperature remove from heat and slowly add vinegar or lemon juice while stirring.
3. Continue to stir for a few minutes until the first curds form.
4. Allow the curds and whey to sit for about half an hour, stirring every few minutes to break up the curd.
5. Strain through a cheesecloth.
6. Add salt and mix through the curds.
7. Tighten cheesecloth to remove excess whey.
8. Place in fridge suspended over a bowl. Allow to sit overnight.
9. More whey will drop into bowl overnight. Discard the whey.

Making the Filling:
1. Crumble farmer’s cheese.
2. Add chives & salt to cheese.
3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs.
4. Mix beaten eggs with cheese.

Making the Dough:
1. Sift the flour
2. Add the salt to the flour and sift again.
3. Make a hill with the flour and make a crater in the center.
4. Beat the egg in a bowl.
5. Fold the sour cream and melted butter into the beaten eggs.
6. Dump the egg mixture into the crater.
7. Work the flour/egg mixture with fingers until smooth.
8. Roll into a ball and set on a platter.
9. Cover the ball with an inverted bowl and let sit for ten minutes.

Oh…if it’s not very humid, you may need to add more wetness to the dough. Just take 1 tablespoon of milk & 1 tablespoon of sour cream, mix it together until smooth and gradually add to the dough until it’s a good consistency. On the other hand, if your dough is too wet then add a little flour a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Making the Perogies:
1. Roll out 1/3 of the dough to about 1/16″ (leaving the unused portion under the bowl).
2. Cut out as many circles as possible using the ring.
3. Put a good amount of filling into the middle of the circle (1-2 tablespoons-ish). Be sure to leave at least 1/4″ of dough around the filling.
4. Using your finger, wet the edge of the dough with water.
5. Fold closed into a half-circle and pinch the edges tight to close.
6. Place finished perogie in boiling water, it will float once it’s cooked through.
7. Once cooked through you can either fry immediately, refrigerate and fry later, or you could freeze them for later (they’ll be better if you don’t fry them prior to freezing).

*Note that you will probably need to make two batches of dough for the amount of filling that you’ll have.