Pierogi are portly fellows, solid citizens, full of good humor and potatoes. Like most dumplings, they pal around in packs. Which is a happy thing.
The crisp/tender cuties are small. And — not to be crude — tough to tell apart. Would any waitress — outside Warsaw — respond to an order for a pierog?
Even the lonely cheese-stuffed, onion-topped hunchback goes by the plural pierogi.
Like biscotti. The restrained snackist, yearning for coffee and cookie, hesitates to ask for a single biscotto. One biscotti, two biscottis must annoy the Italian. But not the barista.
That's what happens to migrant words. They adapt. Fit in. Acculturate.
Consider the grilled sandwich, which the purist pronounces panino and everyone else calls panini. Long ago, such awkward moments embarrassed spaghetti, calamari, crostini and tamales. Now, they're comfortable perma-plural.
Frankly, the switch makes sense. Unused words tend to fade away. And given the vast pleasures of pierogi, who needs a word for just one?
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: About 40 dumplings
3 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup warm water
1 russet potato, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut up
2 onions, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound farmer cheese
Heap flour in a bowl. Add butter and, with quick fingers, work butter into flour. Drizzle in water. Turn out and knead to a soft dough, about 5 minutes. Cover pastry with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, half an hour or more.
Settle potato in a pan of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. When cool, press through a potato ricer.
Heat cut-up butter and 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Scoop half the onions into the potatoes, leave the rest in the skillet. Add cheese to the potatoes and mix gently with a fork.
On a floured surface, roll out pastry very thin. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to punch out circles. Heap 1 teaspoon potato filling onto each circle. Fold in half, shaping half-moons. Press edges firmly. Scraps can be rerolledonce.
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Press the edges of the dumplings again, for potato security. Slip half the dumplings into the water. They quickly rise to the surface. Cook tender, about 1 more minute. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dumplings.
Slide half the dumplings into the skillet with the remaining onions. Set over medium heat (add a little oil if pan seems dry), and crisp the bottoms golden, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Enjoy many.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.