What We Want: Pierogi
Illustration by JP Thimot
You might not know it from the byline, but I’m Polish. My mom’s side of the family tree is sprinkled with names like Tarapacki, Wysocki, Gajewski, Stahura, and Antkowski. We eat a lot of Polish food, especially around the holidays. I grew up with a babcia who had unflappable opinions about the best vendors at the Broadway Market, and as a young girl, I often helped her maneuver her two-wheeled shopping cart from Sweet Avenue to the market. So if there’s any topic on which I feel eminently qualified to write, it is the mighty pierogi. And before anyone calls me on it, let me say that I know that pierog is the singular and pierogi the plural, but I have never heard anyone say “Please pass me another pierog” at one of our family dinners, so I’m going with standard Polish-American usage on this one.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the very best place to get pierogi is from your babcia’s kitchen. And the very best time to eat that pierogi is right after it’s been made. But pierogi-making is not easy. In fact, it’s an art, and a time-consuming one at that. Anyone who’s ever carefully crafted pierogi only to see them explode while boiling knows precisely what I mean. So what’s a pierogi lover without a babcia hook-up to do? The answer is simple: First open your freezer and feed those factory-produced, supermarket-procured things-that-attempt-to-pass-for-pierogi to the birds in your backyard. Next, hop in your car and head to K Sisters on Clinton Street in Buffalo’s Kaisertown.
K Sisters is the brainchild of Karen Markiewicz. Karen started the business because she found commercially produced pierogi lacking in comparison to what her mother and babcia made. So she opened a storefront in Kaisertown that feels remarkably homey; stepping into the converted house, you might imagine that you really are stopping by your babcia’s house to pick up some doughy pockets of deliciousness.
And you won’t be disappointed by the variety of pierogi available at K Sisters. If you’re a purist like me, you’ll probably make a beeline to the traditional options, like sauerkraut (also available with mushroom, bacon, or onion), farmers’ cheese (with potato, onion and chives, or sugar), or potato (with onion or cheese). A half-dozen extra-large pierogi will set you back $6.50. For that price you’ll get pierogi featuring delicious dough made of real, whole ingredients like sour cream, butter, milk, and flour. The dough is a family recipe, and at K Sisters, they believe that it’s all about the dough. One bite into a farmers’ cheese pierogi and you’ll be a believer, too. If you like to liven things up at your family meals, you can slip in a few of K Sisters’ more innovative pierogi—jalapeño with potato, anyone? Or how about some blueberry pierogi, made with locally sourced fruit?
So what’s the best way to prepare your pierogi, once you’ve got them in hand? K Sisters provides some serving tips, and I’ve found that this tried-and-true method results in perfectly prepared pierogi, so I’d recommend you do the same. But you may want to note that this preparation is not for anyone seeking a fat-free meal. In fact, you’ll use eight tablespoons of butter plus two more tablespoons of sour cream, but that equals ten tablespoons of delicious!
For a package of six pierogi, sauté a large sliced onion in four tablespoons of butter in a small frying pan. In a separate large frying pan, sauté your pierogi in four more tablespoons of butter, until they are light brown on both sides. Place pierogi on a serving dish and drizzle with sautéed onion and butter. Serve with two tablespoons of sour cream on the side.
Gather around the table, eat hearty, and then go take a nap. This is Polish comfort food at its finest.
2116 Clinton Street, Buffalo
Rachel Fix Dominguez writes features and food coverage for Buffalo Spree.