The Part of Me That Is You

Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise


My grandmother laid her claim to me with her middle name, Rose. I allowed her to gently break me out of myself, patiently, as if she were kneading the dough of my soul with her thick fingers. She is the kindest person I have ever known. Much of what my grandmother tried to teach me has been learned after the fact, in the retelling of memories rolled out and carefully shaped like the full moons of her pierogi dough. She taught me how to belong to something that I maybe do not have the right to, to belong where I am not sure that I do.

This is our family recipe for traditional potato pierogi. This is something you can take when you need it. This is a recipe steeped in love.

Pierogi Dough:

  • 3 cups flour

  • 3 whole eggs, slightly beaten

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ cup mashed potatoes (plain)

  • ¼ cup potato water (approx.)

- Boil a small pot of potatoes. Mashing them and saving the water from cooking the potatoes.
- In a large bowl, add the flour, making a “well” in the middle.
- Add the slightly beaten eggs, salt, mashed potatoes, and potato water.
- Knead with hands until smooth—this requires patience, and waiting for the dough to tell you that it’s done.

Potato and Cheese Filling:

  • 1 bag of potatoes (5lb or 10lb, depending on how many you want to make)
    *using about 2/3 of a 5lb bag will yield ~25 pierogi

  • Farmers cheese (you may need to go to a specialty market for this)

  • Cottage cheese, drained well

  • Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

  • Chopped sweet onions, to taste

  • Chopped green onions, to taste

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Butter

- Peel potatoes, cut into quarters, and boil until soft.
- Drain water from potatoes and mash until smooth.
- Saute sweet onions in butter until soft and fragrant.
- Mix cheese and potatoes, in whatever ratio feels right.
- Add cooled sweet onions and green onions.
- Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Chill or let cool before using to fill pierogi.


  • Use lots of flour to roll out the dough. Take a glass—I use a stemless wine glass—dip it in the flour, and use it to cut out circles of the dough.

  • Fill circles with potato and cheese filling, not too much.

  • Dip your finger into the leftover potato water and run it around the edge of half of the circle.

  • Fold over, pinch shut to seal, and crimp, making sure that no filling is caught in the seam.

  • Continue to roll out the dough until every last scrap has been used. Make more if you need to.

  • When all pierogi are filled, put on a pot of boiling water.

  • Add 4-6 pierogi to the pot at a time, allowing them to cook until they float to the surface.

  • Let cool and dry on a towel or rack.

  • Saute the pierogi in butter and chopped sweet onion until browned. Accompany with sour cream—add dill if you want to feel particularly Polish.

Serve pierogi to someone you love. That is the only rule of this recipe—you cannot make it for yourself alone. Otherwise, it doesn’t quite work the same way.