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Getting Crafty in the Kitchen
Growing up in an Italian family, my mother always cooked with wine. Whether it made it to the pan or stayed in her glass, a few bottles of red or white has always been at home in her kitchen. My kitchen, however, is much more familiar with a mason jar of sudsy stuff than any refined stemware, so I figured a series based on beer-focused recipes might be a nice one to kick off.
I'm starting with an experiment of sorts, adapting Beer Advocate's Pierogi a la Biere recipe to more adequately please my palate (and what I already had in my tiny fridge). Instead of Polish dumplings stuffed with smoked Keilbasa and German butterball potatoes soaked in a smoked lager, I substituted sweet potatoes, pancetta and sauteed chicken breast cooked down with a healthy dose of Ommegang Rare Vos Belgian Amber to balance out the earthy-salty-sweetness of the filling. And the results were epic.
I began, of course, with their basic dough recipe, though halving it and adding the Rare Vos instead of the suggested lager.
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbs Rare Vos
- 2 cups all purpose flour
Whip up the wet ingredients on low speed (or the low speed of my biceps because I don't own a mixer) and slowly incorporate the flour until the dough is smooth and pulls gently away from the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a ball, seal it up in a Ziploc and stash it away in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. While that refrigerator door stands gaping open, take note of the sparkling 22oz bottle of Rare Vos, only minimally tapped into thus far. I sure did, and naturally poured myself a glass of spicy, golden-hued goodness while turning my attention back to Season One of The Wire, playing all the while on my precariously positioned laptop.
Around the time poor Omar was hopping a bus to NYC, I started preparing the filling using BA's recipe for measurement guidelines.
- 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled
- 4 oz Rare Vos
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 garlic cloves
- 6 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 large chicken breasts cut into small cubes
- 5 more oz Rare Vos
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup Gruyere, shredded
Throw the sweet potatoes in a medium-sized pot, adding the first round of ale and enough water to cover. Toss in the garlic and set that baby to boil. Once it's at a rapid boil, lower the gas and let it simmer for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when poked.
While all that's going on, top off your glass and start in on the chicken. Add your pancetta to a saute pan over medium-high heat and let the fat render for a bit, adding a tiny bit of vegetable oil if your pancetta is on the skimpy side. Once the oil is glistening in the pan, add the onions and saute them with a pinch of salt (I like to use seasoned salt, here) for about two minutes. Add the chicken cubes and keep cooking until the chicken is cooked through but not browned. Finally, add the remaning 5oz of beer and the thyme, cover and deglaze until the Rare Vos is almost completely evaporated and the chicken takes on a nice, dark golden color.
Once the potatoes are soft, drain the water and place them back in the pot. Add the chicken-pancetta-onion mess from the saute pan and smash it all up together. It should be the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes. Cool the mash down the room temperature and then fold in the shredded Gruyere. Now it's time to make these dumplings.
Roll out your dough on a well floured surface and cut circles using the lip of a pint glass. Tuck spoonfulls of filling in the center of each circle and paint the edges with a little egg mixture (1 egg beaten slightly with water or, my choice, more beer). When it's all pretty, fold the dough in half, forming a little stuffed crescent. Crimp the edges with your thumbs and set the pierogi aside.
When all the dough and filing have united, heat a new pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop about four baby dumplings at a time into the pot and cook them for four to five minutes in small batches, as they'll expand in the water and you don't want to crowd them. Fish them out with a slotted spoon when they're done boiling, then lay the pierogis on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 400F.
Once all the little guys are big and boiled, do like I did and pop them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Or, if you prefer a tastier but slightly less healthy option, drop the boiled pierogies into a skillet with a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil and fry those suckers up. Your arteries will hate you but at least you'll taste some happiness.
Serve over a bed of fresh, bitter greens with a side of sour cream, extra cheese to throw on top and a dash of your favorite hot sauce. Oh, and don't forget to refill your beer glass.
Happy cooking, craftheads!
P.S. That really is my mom in the video.