Combining the past and present for a hot wing fusion dumpling
Photographs by Morgan Springer
When I think of my Polish grandmother, this is what comes to mind: I walk into her kitchen and am greeted with the smell of savory butter and onions. I hear the sound of crackling butter in a skillet. And I see hundreds of pierogi (‘puh-row-gee’) sitting on the counter waiting to be cooked. I’m a little girl, right at eye-level with the countertop. When the pierogi are ready, I search for my favorite pierog (‘puh-row-guh’)—one filled with farmer’s cheese. Once I find one, I sink my teeth into the softest, most pillowy bite. My heart warms with each mouthful like I’m wrapped in a cozy blanket on a chilly day. Each bite leaves me smiling from ear to ear.
The pierog wasn’t a favorite for just my family. It’s a staple in Polish cuisine. Pierogi are dumplings stuffed with sauerkraut, farmer’s cheese, potato, mushroom, and many other cultural staples.
I grew up surrounded by my Polish family in Buffalo, New York. My move to Memphis in 2017 was big, especially food-wise! I got to try collard greens, banana pudding, fried catfish, and shrimp and grits; I could go on and on.
However, while feasting on all of these new flavors, I still had an empty spot in my stomach for my family’s Polish traditions.
As years passed, I made new friends and created my own Memphis family that I share every holiday meal with. I eventually worked up the courage to host a Polish Easter dinner. I filled the table with pierogi, Polish sausage, sauerkraut, cheesy potatoes, and green bean casserole. I felt at home. You could hear the knives and forks clinking against the plates as everyone indulged. Finally, someone blurted out, “Can you please pass the pierogi—they were so delicious!”
My heart warmed with the same feeling I felt when I was a little girl in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Nowadays, pierogi have evolved with American cuisine; you can find them stuffed with non-traditional fillings such as loaded baked potato or cheeseburger. But what hasn’t changed is the key component of the authentic pierog dough. The sour cream in the dough leaves a soft, tender, silky mouthfeel, unlike traditional pasta.
I wanted to give Memphians a piece of Poland to indulge in, and I wanted to give Polish people living in Memphis a piece of home.
And while most people take up an instrument or open a book to relax, I love to create recipes. So I came up with the dish below. It represents a melting pot of Polish and Memphis cuisine.
Recipe: Hot Wing Fusion Pierogi
Yields 25-30 pierogi
Sour Cream Pierogi Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup butter, room temperature (not melted)
½ teaspoon salt
1. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt until fully combined. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add in the sour cream and butter; mix until fully incorporated.
3. Use your hand to make a hole in the dry ingredients. This will allow the wet ingredients to be slowly incorporated. Gently pour the wet ingredients into the formed hole.
4. Using a fork, gradually combine wet and dry ingredients. The dough should have the appearance of small pebbles. Place dough on a floured workbench and knead until a dough ball forms. Place dough ball back into the bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rest for 15-20 minutes.
5. Place dough ball on a floured workbench and roll to ⅛-inch thick. Cut out circles using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (a glass works just as well).
6. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the circle. Using water, wet half of the circle and bring the other side over, encasing the filling and sealing the pierogi together, making a crescent moon shape.
7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil 5-7 pierogi at a time to prevent sticking. Once pierogi float, cook for an additional minute, and then remove from water.
8. You can choose to stop now and eat your pierogi boiled—or you can continue following instructions to pan fry them. To pan fry, bring a skillet to medium heat. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and add 3 tablespoons of butter. Pan fry on each side until golden brown.
Hot Wing Fusion Filling
2 cups cooked and minced chicken
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup favorite wing sauce
Place chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and wing sauce in a medium bowl; stir until combined.
For a more traditional pierogi, try one of these fillings:
Sweet Farmer Cheese Filling
3 cups farmer cheese (similar to ricotta and can be purchased at Sprouts Farmers Market)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large eggs
Add all ingredients to a food processor and combine until smooth.
Cheesy Potato Filling
2-3 large russet potatoes
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Place in pot, cover with water, and cook until fork-tender.
2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, add cooked potatoes, cream cheese, whole milk, garlic powder, and onion powder to bowl. Mix until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Allow filling to cool about 30 minutes before adding cheddar cheese.
4. For a fun, non-traditional twist, add bacon and green onion to the filling. Serve with sour cream.
Megan Partacz is a registered dietitian who loves getting creative in the kitchen. She spends most of her time with her golden retriever, Winston. He is her number one fan when it comes to cooking because he loves cleaning up her masterpieces.@mpartacz_rd
Morgan Springer is a Memphis native who enjoys creative expression through photography and content creation.