Being of Polish descent, Christmas Eve – Wigilia- is a very special day and evening filled with traditions and good food. The day starts out with cleaning of the home top to bottom and presents are placed under the tree. The remainder of the day we prepare the 12-dish meatless dinner. The table is set with a white table cloth and an extra setting is placed on the table to remember loved ones who are absent. Hay is placed under the table to symbolize the birth of Jesus and to chase away misery. Dinner is not served until the first star of the evening is spotted. The Christmas tree is lit and dinner begins. Prayers are said along with taking Oplatek – a blessed polish bread that resembles a communion wafer. Because the Polish people treat Christmas Eve as a day of fasting, we are sure hungry for the 12 dishes by the time dinner is served. The star of the meal in my opinion are pierogi’s.
Making pierogies are messy and time consuming – but all so worth it. The two fillings I make are potato cheese, which I boil potatoes and mash with velveeta cheese. The other is fried cabbage and onion. I shred a head of cabbage, place it in boiling water for about 8 min. and then drain. That removes the harsh gases from it. Then I saute a diced onion in a little oil and once it starts to carmelize I add the cabbage with some salt and pepper. I cook it until it becomes soft and sweet.
For the dough
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of milk, 1 beaten egg and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Melt 1/2 stick of margarine and add to the milk mixture. Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour. Mix well. Dough will be sticky. On a well-floured surface, incorporate more flour into the dough until it is easy to roll out. Use a 3″ diameter circle to cut dough out, add filling and pinch sides together.
To cook, boil water, add pierogies. Once they come to the top, simmer a little more and then remove. I serve with fried onions, melted butter and sautéed mushrooms.
These also freeze well. I flour a cookie sheet, place the pierogis on it and then flash freeze. Once they are frozen, I put them in a zip loc bag.
Enjoy – and have a very Merry Christmas!!