Inspired by The Huntress by Kate Quinn, I decided to try my hand at these handmade Polish dumplings. Thanks for Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm for suggesting this book for our online book group Lit Happens.
Historical fiction is definitely my genre of choice. I was thrilled when Wendy picked this book.
On the Page
With three different points of view and characters based on historical people, I am almost at a loss for how to characterize how much I loved this book. At more than 500 pages though, I don't want to comb back through because I will likely get sucked into re-reading it. Yes, I liked it that much.
Ian is an English journalist and Nazi hunter married to Nina who was one of the Nachthexen, the Night Witches. They were an all-female Russian bombing squad who worked to beat back the Nazis. Along with Tom, Ian's partner, they are in America hunting The Huntress, a Nazi war criminal who was notorious for targeting children. The third point of view is of Jordan who is suspicious of her new stepmother, Anneliese. Anneliese is Anna, Die Jägerin, the Huntress,
Nina was my favorite character and I appreciated her role in all three timelines. But my favorite Nina story was her time as a pilot, downed behind enemy lines near Lake Rusalka, and fighting for her life.
Lake Rusalka: a lake in Poland named for a creature of the night, and during the darkest years of the war, a woman lived on her shores far more fearful than any witch who crawled from a lake's depths.
On the Plate
So, now you know the significance of Rusalka and Nachthexen in my title. Here's the pierogi part. These are Polish dumplings inspired by Nina's time in Poland.
2 cups flour plus more for rolling
1 cup hot water
1 t salt
oil as needed
Also needed: rolling pin, bowl approximately 4" diameter, butter knife, water for sealing dumplings
1/2 cup sliced leeks
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used one that was made of buffalo milk)
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup mashed potatoes (this is a great way to use leftover potatoes)
freshly ground salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
freshly ground salt
freshly ground pepper
Place flour, salt, and water together in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface or cutting board and press a hollow into the center. Crack the egg into the hole and knead it until the egg is incorporated and the dough comes together. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil and knead the dough into an elastic dough. Add another splash of oil to a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover loosely with a towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes. While the dough rests, make the filling.
Place butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the leeks and cook until the leeks are softened and beginning to caramelize, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Place the ricotta cheese, parmesan, and mashed potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add in the leek and stir until well-incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then fold in your eggs. Stir everything together until well-combined.
Assembly After the dough has rested, divide it into quarters. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a thin rectangle. The dough should be 1/8" or thinner. Use a bowl as your guide to cut the dough into circles. Spoon 1 Tablespoon of the filling onto one side of the circle. Moisten the edge of the wrapper and fold the dough over the filling. Roll edges together. Crimp the edge with a fork. Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling. You can also re-roll the scraps and get more circles. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until you are ready to cook. To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place 5 to 6 dumpling in the water at a time. As soon as they all float to the top, let them cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
I served these hard-working dumplings two ways. the first was with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.