potato varenyky — a carb lover’s dream. these traditional dumplings aren’t for the faint of heart…and by faint of heart i mean anyone that doesn’t want to devote half their day in the kitchen making these. while it’s much easier to simply buy frozen varenyky at the store, like most foods, homemade is best — not to mention it’s another one of those traditional ukrainian dishes that acts as an integration rite of passage…or at least some impressive bragging rights.
i’ve been lucky enough to have had quite the varenyky making practice during training. my host mom during training initially taught me tricks of the trade. she was quite impressed with my varenyky skills (it must be the pierogi in my blood). after my foundational courses in potato & mushroom, cabbage, cheese, cherry varenyky at mama natasha’s culinary school, i continued my carbohydrate calling with megan as we adventurously tried (sometimes with swearing) our hand at our own varenyky creations — without ukr supervision.
my site mate sarah had tragically never made varenyky with her host family so when she came over to help marked her varenyky making inauguration. i thought of how proud my host mom would be to know that not only was i using her recipe, but also that her student has now become the teacher (is that a quote from karate kid?). i’m passing on my torch of varenyky wisdom — what little i actually have.
this recipe isn’t for your typical run-of-the-mill varenyky. it’s a special lenten recipe i made with my host mom on my last visit. she was kind enough to dictate her secret recipe to me. during lent, orthodox ukrainians abstain from eating animal products. so what is typically a sour cream and egg dough is simply oil and yeast. because of the yeast, the dough takes longer to prep but offers bigger yet lighter “fluffy” varenyky.
personally, i like both versions of varenyky dough…well really, i’ll take varenyky any way i can get it. but i thought i’d share this version of varenyky with you….you know, in case you’re willing to work for your carb-loading.
lenten potato varenyky
makes about 45 varenyky
for the dough:
.5 liter of warm water
2 tsp sugar
6 tbs flour
1 packet of dry active yeast (11 g)
2 tbs oil
1 tsp salt
1 kilo flour
for the filling:
about 12 small potatoes
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped chives
lots of oil
1 onion chopped and sautéed
1.) in a large bowl put mix water and sugar. then mix in 6 tbs flour and yeast packet. mix and let sit covered with towel for 30 minutes.
2.) add remaining dough ingredients (oil, salt, flour) to yeast mixture. it helps to add flour little by little. kneed dough for a few minutes and put back in bowl, cover with towel and let stand for another 30 minutes.
3.) while waiting for dough, prepare mashed potato filling. (pretty sure making mashed potatoes is self-explanatory)
4.) after second 30 minutes have passed, kneed dough lightly for one more minute. place dough on floured work surface and cut into half, then quarters. with each section of dough cut workable smaller pieces (about 1/4″ thick).
(and since i really don’t feel like trying to explain the process of shaping, filling, and sealing varenyky, you can just youtube it. onward!)
5.) prepare large casserole pot with steam basket. be sure to let shaped varenyky rest for 5 minutes before steaming. when there is a strong pillar of steam, varenkyky is ready to be cooked.
6.) pour a few table spoons of oil onto a small plate and dip one side of the varenyky into the oil and place in steam basket. cook varenyky in small batches of 4-5 (depending on casserol pot size). cover pot and let varenyky steam for 5-7 minutes.
7.) when finished toss in some more oil and sautéed onion. serve with sour cream or ketchup. repeat process until all varenyky is made.
*it is possible to freeze uncooked varenyky. to freeze, place varenyky neatly on a wax papered baking sheet and freeze overnight. then remove from sheet and place in plastic ziplock bag.
**of course you can choose a different filling — potatoes and mushrooms, cabbage, pumpkin even…just be sure to change the water of your steam bath. it will affect the taste!