After almost two weeks of wall-to-wall Olympics viewing in our home, I’ve come to a couple realizations about Russia.
First – and I’m a bit shocked the coin never dropped on this for me before this point — they have some of the greatest classical music of all time. Second, they have some of the best ballet ever danced or choreographed. Third, Russians seriously know what to do with a potato.
Pampushki, soup, salad and vodka come to mind, but at the top of the heap of wondrous things to do with potatoes stands vareniki — savory Russian mashed potato stuffed dumplings. It’s hard to go wrong with mashed potatoes stuffed into dumplings, isn’t it?
I grew up familiar with pierogies, but until recently had only eaten the ones I’d made from boxes procured from my handy-dandy grocer’s freezer. Let me tell you, I have loved those dearly, and I can promise they will still be on my table from time to time, but after having a go at making these Russian ones, I rather suspect that any mass produced ones will pale in comparison from here on in.
Because I chose to prepare my homemade dumplings the same way as I usually prepare frozen pierogies, I was able to make a pretty solid comparison in the differences between the final products. Homemade dumpling dough has a lightness of texture that is simply unmatched by its commercial counterparts. They’re not at all chewy or gummy, but airy. If you opt to pan fry them in butter after boiling, as I prefer to do, you’ll find the homemade vareniki gets far crispier on the bottom, but remains light and pillowy over the un-fried portions.
I did stamp my own mark on the filling, mixing some meltingly tender caramelized onions into the traditional mashed potato filling. You can find a fantastic, reliable, simple method to prepare a bulk amount of Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions on www.foodiewithfamily.com. Having these in the freezer simplifies and speeds up the vareniki making process.