What the heck is vareniki, you ask? Well, it’s the Ukrainian version of pierogies. And this post features our (Mennonite) version of vareniki.
Vareniki was dished up quite often back when I was a kid, and it continues to be a favourite of mine. My grandma used to cook these up both in the traditional manner, with a cottage cheese filling, as well as unfilled. Since finding dry curd cottage cheese is virtually impossible these days, not to mention the trouble one can have with vareniki popping open during the boiling process, we simply cook them unfilled and top them with cottage cheese and a cream cheese white sauce (recipe follows).
However, “back in the day,” we didn’t use cream cheese, we used sour cream. I believe that the sour cream found on store shelves today is not the same as it was decades ago, because it no longer yields the same results and we’ve had to improvise. How sad that our food supply as become so adulterated that it’s almost unrecognizable from the not-so-distant past. But I digress.
We don’t make these very often, perhaps once or twice a year, and there are a few reasons for this. First, they are quite labour intensive. Second, they are definitely not the healthiest meal around. And last, but most importantly, (especially when you take into account my gluten-sensitivity,) is that this is basically just a big plate full of gluten. Mmmm, gluten!!
The dish looks incredibly bland on its own, what with its monotone colour, but for my family, it’s a real treat. The presentation (and taste) could be vamped up by serving alongside a few pieces of Pioneer brand farmer sausage, oddly enough I don’t recall that we have ever done that – how strange!
3 ½ cups flour, divided
2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
In a large stockpot, bring approximately 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour along with the salt. Form a well in the center of the flour; add water and eggs. Mix the water and eggs, drawing flour from the edges (this works best using you hands) until well combined. Add remaining half a cup of flour as needed to make a firm dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough out very thin, taking care not to tear the dough. Using a paring knife, cut dough into roughly 3 to 4-inch squares. When water is at a rolling boil, carefully place vareniki in the water and boil approximately 2 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Serve hot with cottage cheese and white sauce. Yields approximately 6 servings.
Got leftovers? No problem! These are delicious when pan-fried in olive oil until golden and lightly crisp. They are tasty enough to be eaten plain, or they can be served in the same manner as the boiled ones.
CREAM CHEESE WHITE SAUCE
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, make a roux by whisking together 2 Tbs. butter with 2 Tbs. flour until a thick paste is formed. Add 2 ½ cups of milk, 4 ounces of cubed cream cheese, and 1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, until cream cheese is completely dissolved and sauce thickens to desired consistency, about 10 minutes.