Schatzi: One of the things I most enjoy about the Orthodox holiday feasts is branching out and trying new, exotic recipes and techniques. Honestly, it was cooking for Orthodox dinners that got me out of my baking rut; before we started having these dinners, I baked cakes and cookies, and pretty much nothing else. I rarely if ever cooked with meat, but my first Orthodox Christmas, I made Chicken Kiev. It turned out very well, giving me the confidence to continue branching out, and since then, I have made all kinds of things, for Orthodox feasts and everyday cooking.
One personal bete noir for me has always been dough. It was always my mother’s job to make and roll out the gingerbread dough at Christmas, and my older sister Malia’s job to bake fantastic pies, so I avoided any dough that needed to be rolled out. One Thanksgiving in high school, I tried baking a molasses crust pumpkin tart, and burst into tears when trying to roll the dough out for the crust. Mom took over, and it turned out beautifully, but I hadn’t touched a rolling pin since then. However, Maiya got me a beautiful Sil-Rol French-style rolling pin for this past Christmas, and I would have felt awful if I never used it. This Orthodox Easter, I was determined to make varenyky.
You may also know them as vareniki, kalduny, pyrohy, or pierogi; the filled dumplings are ubiquitous in Eastern European food, both sweet and savory. There are differences between the many varieties, but essentially they are thin dough dumplings filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, or fruits. As usual, I followed recipes from Please to the Table, making minor adjustments as needed, although I completely winged the blueberry recipe. To save time on Easter morning (though dinner was not scheduled until five), I made two fillings the night before, potato-cheese and blueberry. Since potatoes were not widespread in Ukraine until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I used a purple-topped turnip and two Yukon Golds, which made a tasty filling. I waited til just before making the dough to cook the onions, and simply folded the refrigerated seasoned cheesy potato-turnip mixture into the hot butter and onions, which warmed it up perfectly for the filling process.
- 2 cp blueberries (we used some we picked and froze last summer)
- ½ cp sugar
- 1-2 tbsp kirsch (lemon juice or brandy are also fine)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1-2 tbsp cornstarch
- In a heavy medium pot, cook all ingredients but cornstarch over low heat til blueberries release their juices. Cook til lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.
- When filling varenyky with blue berries, use a small spoon and fill with cooked berries, reserving sauce. Add cornstarch and heat over low til slightly thickened.
- After cooking, toss with melted butter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Top with a dollop of sour cream and drizzle with blueberry sauce.
- 2 Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 purple-top turnip
- salt & pepper to taste
- ¼ lb farmer’s cheese
- ¼-1/2 cp cheddar cheese
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- Cook potatoes and turnip, then mash together. Mash in cheeses and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve til needed.
- In a large pan, melt butter and cook onions til brown over low heat, about 15-20 minutes. Stir into potato-turnip-cheese mixture. Fill varenyky with 1 heaping teaspoon. To serve, toss with melted butter and top with sour cream and onions browned with bacon.