Unexpected birthday deliciousness!
So it was a dear friend's birthday over the weekend, and I wanted to try making something tasty just for him at this week's Monday Night Gaming Horde (hereafter known as the infelicitous sounding MNGH). He'd let drop — after much prompting — that he kinda liked pierogies? So I went and looked them up. How bad could it be, right?
Famous last words, right? I should know better. ;)
Keep in mind that I'm a huge fan of simple, fast recipes — speed and short ingredient lists are religious virtues, people! Also, currently the temperature in this area has been conducting a flirtation with steadily 90 degree weather. That, plus we don't have air conditioning in our rental, equals occasional brain-melting hot box — ouch! So after perusing several recipes calling for me to make the dough for a few hours before I even start on the fillings, I decided that descending on the birthday boy like one of the ancient Greek furies, tearing him limb from limb in sweat-soaked and heat-exhausted revenge… was probably neither the best of birthday presents nor in the best of taste, you know? Just sayin'…
Then I found this: pierogi casserole. Oh, yeah! It takes a bit more effort than I usually want to put into cooking, but the woman who writes the blog is hilarious, which softened my initial resistance. The recipe with her comments, and my later notes, is below. Best part? It's another of those "house smells wonderful during the entire cooking time!" kinds of recipes. I served it with a simple green salad, and homemade birthday Italian cream sodas for dessert (recipe for that is tomorrow), and it was a huge hit with all the guys.
Even more amazing? It filled them all up!! I am serious — this is an astonishing thing for the MNGH! Plus I was delighted to see there were a few spoonfuls left over for me tomorrow! Best. Carbs explosion. Ever.
8 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces of cheese, cubed or shredded (Velveeta works best, second best is hand-grated cheddar)
1/2 pound pasta (farfalle or lasagna noodles)
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Preheat oven to 350.
Peel potatoes and chop into quarters. Set them in a large pot and cover with water, allowing it to come to a boil. Boil potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. While potatoes are boiling, cook pasta according to directions, and once drained mix with two tablespoons of butter. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter and saute chopped onion until soft.
Drain potatoes and mash with one stick of butter and cheese. Make sure no lumps remain. Fold in onions.
Spread out pasta in a large baking dish and spread mashed potato mixture over top. If desired, top with more cheese and onions. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. This is best when served immediately, but still tastes good after being in the fridge for a day or two.
And yes, I’m sure bacon would be delicious with this. I still have to digest the butter and cheese and pasta. Baby steps, people.
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That's all the author wrote! Later notes from me: I used margarine instead of butter, under the mistaken apprehension that this would lessen the calories. Mea culpa!
Putting butter in with the cooked pasta is a fantastic idea, since it keeps them from sticking together — I'll have to remember that! However, I forgot to cut up the lasagna noodles into smaller squares, instead laying them out in long strips in the 13" x 9" pan. That made cutting the noodles out later somewhat problematic, and I managed to dump all the topping off the noodles twice before I got the hang of it. Messy, but fortunately the casserole looks pretty much the same upside down as right side up!
Also used the standard dried onion soup mix instead of an actual onion, and I added chopped up apple and cheese chicken sausage instead of the suggested bacon. I chose the chicken sausage because I like the apple & cheese mix, but that turned out to be a lucky choice — apparently beef and cheese together is a Jewish no-no, and one of the MNGH tries to observe the Jewish eating rules.
As I've previously mentioned, Velveeta comes in 16 oz. blocks. This recipe calls for only 8 oz., so I shredded another 4 oz. over the top just for the fun of it. Excellent idea!
So despite taking more effort than I usually want, this one's a definite keeper — on the request of the MNGH as well as sheer pleasure of the eating. Cheers! :)