Tonight I made peroghi. No, it’s not Italian. It was homework. This isn’t a cooking school as so many have assumed when I talked about coming here. But our homework was to prepare a dish that has some significance for us. It can be a traditional food from our country or a favorite family dish or something else that is our association with food. I felt a need to make peroghi as it is a dish with a long history in our family. I first tasted peroghi when we visited my grandmother in Scranton, Pennsylvania. My father’s mother came to the United States from Slovakia. She spoke essentially no English. Every time we visited her she made us peroghi. Making it for us was obviously something very important for her. I loved it from the start. I know now that there are many variations of peroghi. The kind she made was filled with potato and cheddar cheese filling. It was cooked and then mixed with tons of onions cooked in butter.
Our family has continued the tradition of making peroghi for special occasions. I started making it but it was picked up by my sons. My sisters also get involved at holiday time for when we gather for Thanksgiving there will be peroghi along with the traditional turkey dinner. At Christmas there will be peroghi with whatever special dinner has been planned for that family gathering. There have arisen variations on the potato and cheese filled peroghi I grew to love. There have been sausage with sauerkraut stuffed ones, mushroom stuffed ones, and others. My favorite, though perhaps the least flavorful, is the potato cheese ones, probably because of the primal connection with my grandmother Hiza.
Anyway, I decided that I had to make peroghi. There were a couple of complicating factors that I was sure I could overcome. First, we don’t have a completely equipped kitchen. (See earlier postings). Second, I don’t understand the Italian flour classifications. Third cheddar cheese is not to be had in Italy, or at least in our part of Italy. But I’m guessing that my grandmother didn’t use cheddar in Slovakia. She probably used that because it was close to what she had used. So I bought a fontina cheese by asking, I think, for something that wasn’t sweet and that would melt. Potatoes and onions were not a problem. About the dough. Normally I would mix my own dough and roll it out thin and then cut it with a round cutter, fill, seal and boil. I decided that with my limited time and limited knowledge of Italian flour that I would go across the street (actually June went) and buy a sheet of frest pasta. No need to run to the hardware store for a rolling pin as they rolled it to June’s specifications. We did go to the hardware store for a ricer to mash the potatoes. Now I was ready to go. Open the dough package and cut rounds with…hummm…a plastic Nutella lid. It was a bit small but this is a symbolic lunch and we are not expected to feed thousands.
I noticed that the fresh pasta is a bit stiffer than the soft dough I’m used to working with when making peroghi but it will all be in the cooking, right? The potatoes were boiled and the cheese was grated…well, we don’t have a box grater. We bought a grater for parmigiano but this was a softer cheese and gummed up that grater. Instead I cut it into brunoise (look it up) and mixed that in with the riced potatoes. I filled the rounds with about a teaspoon of the potato cheese filling, wet the edges and tried to seal them. Usually that only takes finger pressure. This time we needed a fork.
Then they were boiled, longer than usual, and mixed with the waiting diced onion cooked in butter. The taste test showed them to be not the same as grandmother’s but rather a fusion in flavor and texture. The bite was a bit firmer and the cheese, though delicious, was NOT cheddar. I don’t have a picture of the finished product. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll take a photo in class.