Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pierogi empire’

KU alumni tapping local market for savory ethnic dumplings

Rows of pierogies are lined up and ready to boil before freezing and packaging.

Rows of pierogies are lined up and ready to boil before freezing and packaging.

September 5, 2007


Pieroguys Pierogies

Frank Gazella, a Kansas University alumnus and co-owner of Pieroguys Pierogies, talks about his new business that supplies the ethnic sandwiches to local bars, restaurants and grocery stores. Enlarge video

On the street

Do you like to explore new ethnic foods?

Yeah, I do whenever I get the chance. I like Thai food a lot. Indian can be OK depending on where you get it. Chinese is pretty common, but it can be pretty good as well. And Mexican, very excellent.

More responses

Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, Frank Gazella ate a lot of pierogies. "These are a No. 1 food," he says.

But when he came to Kansas University for college, the ethnic dumplings were virtually nonexistent.

"Nobody knew what it was," Gazella says. "That sparked the idea."

That idea, shared by his buddy Drew Misak, was to introduce Lawrence to pierogies through their own business, Pieroguys Pierogies.

Since starting the company in April, Misak and Gazella say they're exceeding their own expectations and winning over a lot of taste buds.

And they're answering this question a lot: What's a pierogi?

"Probably," Misak says, "from everybody who calls."

Ethnic roots

So what exactly is a pierogi?

Basically, it's dough with a filling inside. Most traditionally, that filling is a mixture of mashed potatoes and cheese.

Pierogies - which have several alternate spellings - trace their roots to several Eastern European countries, including Russia, Hungary and Poland.

They've remained a part of food culture in the United States wherever pockets of Eastern European immigrants settled.

That includes Whiting, Ind., which boasts an annual Pierogi Fest each July. The area has a large population of Polish, Slovac and Serbian families.

Gayle Faulkner Kosalko, who is in charge of the festival, says the event is popular for a nostalgia factor.

"Baby boomers, when we were young, spent Sunday at grandma's house and ate pierogies," Kosalko says. "Grandma's out golfing in Florida now. They want their kids to get a taste of that."

Kosalko, who doesn't care for pierogies herself, says there are many ways to prepare the food, including deep-fat fried, pan-fried and boiling.

"We probably have a dozen or more vendors out here," she says, "and each one does it differently."


The Pieroguys have six different options for cooking their pierogies, which come frozen.

They're averaging 50 dozen a week, distributing mostly to restaurant or bars such as the Yacht Club, 530 Wis., The Crossing, 618 W. 12th St., Crimson and Brews, 925 Iowa, and Abe & Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. They're also available at Checkers, 2300 La.

Things will step up this fall for home KU football games, when pierogies also will be available at KU Alumni Association tailgates.

"It's the perfect beer food," Gazella says.

So far, Misak and Gazella are offering nine varieties. In addition to the traditional potato and sharp cheddar cheese, options include the Italian (sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella and potato), potato, cheddar and bacon, and sauerkraut, cheddar and potato. There also are dessert and breakfast pierogies.

'Pierogi empire'

For Misak and Gazella, operating their own business is a dream come true. Misak graduated from KU with a degree in psychology in 2006. Gazella left KU to join the Marine Corps, then returned to Lawrence last fall.

Though other varieties of pierogies are available at supermarkets, the local pierogi-makers say their versions are larger than most that can be purchased. And they want to keep them handmade as long as the demand doesn't become too large.

"We want to have a pierogi empire," Gazella.

And Misak says that Lawrence, with a progressive food culture, thinks this is the place to start that empire.

"If it's going to work anywhere west of the Mississippi," he says, "it'll work here."

Potato pierogies


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soft butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm milk


  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter (for frying)

Sift flour and mix with salt, butter and eggs. Add warm milk to make a soft dough. Roll out dough on floured surface. Roll to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut in 2-inch squares. Put 1 teaspoon filling on each. Fold in half to make a triangle. Pinch edges. Drop into boiling water until they float. Drain. Fry briefly in the butter.


Cabbage-filled pierogies


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste


  • 1 head cabbage
  • 7 (10-ounce) cans sauerkraut
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mound flour on kneading board and make hole in center. Drop eggs into hole and cut into flour with a knife. Add salt and water and knead until firm. Let rest for 10 minutes, covered with a warm bowl.

Divide dough in halves and roll thin. Cut circles with a large biscuit cutter.

Parboil cabbage in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse, drain, cool and thoroughly wring moisture from cabbage and sauerkraut; set aside. The drier the cabbage and sauerkraut, the less time required to complete cooking. Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter. Add cabbage and sauerkraut and remainder of butter; cook for approximately half an hour or until cabbage is soft and mixture is reasonably dry. It is important that the mixture not be too moist in order to prevent wetting dough during the filling process. Wet dough will cause pierogi to break open during cooking.

Allow mixture to stand in refrigerator (in covered bowl) for 24 hours prior to filling pierogi dough.

Place a small mound of filling a little to one side on each round of dough. Moisten edge with a little water, fold over and press edges firmly together. Be sure they are well-sealed to prevent the filling from running out. Drop the pierogi into salted boiling water. Cook gently for three to five minutes. Lift out of water carefully with a perforated spoon. The dough has a tendency to dry while you are working. A dry dough will not seal completely. We suggest rolling out a large circle of dough, placing small mounds of filling far enough apart to allow for cutting, and folding the dough over the mounds of filling. Then cut with a small biscuit cutter and seal firmly. Never crowd or pile pierogi. The uncooked will stick and the cooked will lose shape and lightness.


Polish Pierogies with Beef Filling


  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound soft farmers cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 whole egg

To finish:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, flour, butter, 2 whole eggs, egg yolk, 2 teaspoons salt and olive oil. Knead the mixture into a soft dough. Divide the dough in half and cover for 10 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll each half of the dough into a thin circle, 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough using a 3-inch circle cutter.

For the filling: Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a saute pan, render the ground beef for three minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper-lined plate. In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, ground beef, shallots, garlic, green onion and egg. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle of dough and fold over. Press and seal into half-moon shapes. Use a little water to seal the pierogies. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pierogi for eight minutes, or until they float. Remove from the water and drain.

In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Sear the pierogi for two to three minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown. Remove from the pan. The pierogi will need to be sauteed in batches. Arrange the pierogies on a platter. Garnish with parsley and serve with sour cream.



Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 6 months ago

I hadn't heard before that beirocks were Turkish in origin--my Volga German friends thought it was Russian. I was under the impression the Turkish region was much farther south.

You learn something new every day!

Nate Poell 10 years, 6 months ago

For the record, many many Kansans do know what cabbage-filled pierogies are called: Bierocks.

Regardless, I think these guys have a great idea and wish them luck.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 6 months ago

Typically, bierocks use a yeast dough and pierogi use an unleavened dough. The names ("bierock" and "pierogi") are likely derived from the same root word. Both dishes probably derive from the same parent dish. But what these fellows think of as "pierogi" and what "many many Kansans" think of as "bierocks" aren't really the same dish, but are cousins of each other.

c_dubya 10 years, 6 months ago

My wife is Polish. We eat pierogies all the time and they are nothing like bierocks. Much closer to a dumpling like you would get in an Asian restaurant except they are fried in butter and onion after boiling. At least, that's how we do it at home and they are quite tasty. The only thing I would warn anyone about is the prep time to make and roll out the dough and cook time are extensive so be prepared! We usually make a lot and freeze the extras. If you do freeze them put them on a cookie sheet for the initial freezing and then transfer them to ziploc bags once they are frozen so they don't stick together.

On a side note, I dropped by Checker's today to try these out and couldn't find them anywhere. Does anyone know where they are hiding them over there?

Unix_Admin 10 years, 6 months ago


They are right by the Cool Whip in the freezer section.

letsgetwise 10 years, 6 months ago

We also eat pierogies, and have for some time. My once neighbor told me about them, she's from I believe New York, and I started buying the frozen ones from Schwans and HyVee carries a couple of brands in their frozen section. I imagine these homemade would be better, but we like what we've had so far. Good Luck!

lori 10 years, 6 months ago

I think that bierrocks come from buerrecks, which is a turkish/southeastern European food. It is a yeast bread, and much larger than most pierogies. Most Germans have no idea what a bierrock is--I think the volga Germans picked it up from the Turks and other locals, Germanized it, and brought it with them when they moved here.

compmd 10 years, 6 months ago

As someone who grew up with these in Chicago, I am happy to see them being made here in Kansas.

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