Campfire cuisine: Yes, you can cook pierogies over a campfire!
At the mention of cooking over a campfire, thoughts of hot dogs and Smores can go dancing through one’s head.
But there can be much more to outdoors cuisine than whittled sticks and flaming marshmallows. So nearly a year ago, my family and I decided to experiment. Our goal was to show that a campfire doesn’t limit what you can cook — it may even enhance your favorite dishes if used correctly.
But our family has plenty of Polish blood running through it, and when it comes to signature sides, macaroni and cheese doesn’t hold a wet noodle to pierogies.
My grandmother was the queen of pierogies. She made the most amazing “dumplings of unleavened dough” known to mankind.
Unfortunately, her culinary wizardry didn’t pass its way down the family tree — at least not to me. So our pierogies are typically provided by Mrs. T. We get them in the frozen food section of the grocery store, and I feel deep shame every time I open the glass freezer door.
Preparation of frozen pierogies at home can run a wide gamut. They can be deep fried, boiled and even microwaved if you really want. However, our favorite method is to cook them in a large pan with butter and sliced onions until browned and just a wee bit crispy. It isn’t a hard thing to cook, although I always struggle to find the proper combination of heat, butter and regular stirring to avoid pierogies sticking to the pan.
Obviously, you could cook the pierogies in a pan over a campfire (step-by-step directions to the perfect camp fire can be found here) using a sturdy cooking rack placed over the fire high enough so that the heat doesn’t get too high and turn your pierogies into charcoal briquettes.
However, we decided to experiment with aluminum foil. As you can tell from previous Campfire Cuisine posts, aluminum foil is a gold standard item all campfire cookers should have on hand. When food is properly sealed inside, it is almost like being inside a pressure cooker. It is like a mini-oven. Heat stays inside and food cooks quicker and more thoroughly. And when you are all done, cleanup is pretty simply — just chuck the leftover foil ball into the recycling bin.
I started with a sheet of foil on a flat surface (table, counter, whatever). Next came a few dabs of butter and some freshly cut onions. I then placed a regular sized box worth of Mrs. T’s pierogies in the middle of the foil. Some more butter and onions came next and then a second sheet of foil. The key to all this is next … folding the four edges several times each in small folds to seal off the packet. The pierogies, onions and butter should be safely tucked inside. You can add vegetable oil or Canola oil if you don’t want to use butter or margarine.
The pierogi pack should be placed over the fire at least a few inches, and you will need to flip the pack pretty regularly so the pierogies don’t burn while they are marinated inside with the butter/onion mixture.
My biggest concern with this process was that the pierogies would stick to the inside of the foil packs just like they do in the pan for me at home. Amazingly, in our trial run last week, the regular turning and butter helped keep that from becoming an issue.
The end result was a serving bowl full of lightly browned pierogies that were perfectly sauteed in the butter and onions.
So, yes, you can cook pierogies over a campfire. It’s not that hard at all.
Maybe it’s a sign that I should give Grandma’s homemade pierogi recipe another shot?
A few other Campfire Cuisine articles: