Fraszczyk puts a scoop of potato-cheese filling on each circle of dough. She has cooked and mashed Idaho potatoes, added sage, rosemary and thyme and shredded >Ewa Fraszczyk fills a circle of homemade dough with a scoop of potato-mushroom filling. She works in a communal kitchen on Columbia Pike producing her Polish pierogies using her mother’s recipe. “Sorry, can’t tell you all of the details.”
Fraszczyk had been working at Tiki on the Wharf in D.C. and then the epidemic hit. “I was at home and didn’t know what to do. I had always been going, going, going working so many hours.”
The months went by and then they called her back. While she liked her job there, something had changed during Covid and “I thought I don’t know if I can do this. I decided to do something for myself.”
She started searching for a communal kitchen and found the space at Kitchen of Purpose on Columbia Pike. But then she faced the bureaucracy of all of the county regulations and the health department. “I thought ‘so this is what it is all about. Everything is so expensive. How are you going to do it?’” She says her fiancé supported her dramatically “and we say I can do it.”
Her concept was fine dining “to go” dinners but the timing was wrong. She says Covid was over and people wanted to go out. “No one wanted food in boxes anymore. I came at the wrong time.”
So she switched her idea. “I thought ‘I have what I need so okay. Ewa do something close to your heart.’ So I decided to look for outdoor farmer’s markets.” She says it was difficult to find a space since the number of vendors had been limited during Covid and the markets were giving preference to their old vendors.
But she did research and luckily a woman decided to help her out, and she started at a Farmer’s Market in Shady Grove, Md.
“And then more people started hearing about me. And thankfully Eastern Market in D.C. welcomed me.” She says it wasn’t easy. “I thought, ‘I am a chef but how do I do this outside?’” The first time I made $236.00, and I knew I could make it happen.”
Now Fraszczyk goes to the Eastern Market Farmer’s every week; “I know people now and If I don’t show up, they email to find out when I’m coming.” She makes her sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies as well as her potatoes and cheese. “I use Gruyere. I have stopped making my meat dumplings in the summer because they are too heavy when it is hot and people don’t want them.”
She says that since she makes all of her pierogies fresh and doesn’t freeze them that she needs to be careful not to make too many so she has limited her sales from the communal kitchen in Arlington and concentrates on the Farmer’s Market. “I have preorders for 350 for tomorrow.” She also sells pork and rice in cabbage. She tries to spell the name in English but finally gives up. “In Polish we have this mark over the letter and this little twist down here.”
Fraszczyk is also working on a catering order for tomorrow for a Polish family who like her roasted chicken and potatoes with fresh summer salads. She says the family had this meal once a long time ago and now order a catered dinner for birthdays and other special events. “And as word gets out, I’m asked to give Polish cooking classes or cater private dinners. There isn’t any other Polish food around.”
Fraszczyk says there are so many international people in the area, “and when they see my Polish flag, they know what they are getting.” She says in time she may expand to have another location but for now “I want to be at the market myself. I want people to know me. I love to make the pierogies; this is where I find my peace.”
Pierogies are cooked in boiling water for five minutes, then boxed in an order of six with caramelized onions and pickled cabbage. Fraszczyk has three six-gallon roundels of caramelized onions on the stove at the same time. She uses about 50 pounds a week and cooks the yellow. onions slowly in canola oil because it avoids people’s allergies. “Mostly chefs do a lot of things at one time but not with these onions. I have to watch them all the time so they don’t burn.”