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09/18/2019

~ Mrs. T's Pierogy, Kielbasa & Sauerkraut Casserole ~

IMG_4413One doesn't need Eastern European roots to enjoy pierogi, but, if you are of Eastern European heritage, you grew up knowing they're much more than a potato-and-cheese stuffed, half-moon shaped dumpling.  Pierogi can be stuffed with all sorts of savory or sweet fillings to serve as a snack, side-dish, main-dish or dessert.  They can be boiled, baked, sautéed, deep-fried or grilled -- some recipes can be transitioned to the microwave or slow-cooker.  They can be made ahead and frozen too.  About the only thing you can't do with pierogi is put them in a sandwich.  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4d35df2200bPierogi (singular and plural, meaning:  one pierogi, three pierogi, a dozen pierogi), along with the holubki (stuffed cabbage rolls) are a staple in my life   Between my maternal great-grandmother, both grandmothers, two great-aunts, four aunts, my mother, the ladies at our church and the ladies at all the other churches, my family was never at a loss for homemade pierogi.

AboutustruckMrs. T's Pierogy (intentionally spelled by them with a "y" instead of an "i"), was founded in 1952 by Ted Twardzik in the town of Shenandoah, PA -- which interestingly, is a short "stones throw" from my Hometown of Hometown, PA.  Ted's mom, Mary Twardzik, aka Mrs. T., loved to cook for her family and everyone loved her handmade pierogi.  After graduating from college with a IMG_4357degree in business and working at a New York accounting firm, Ted, who fondly remembered the ladies sitting around his mother's kitchen table making pierogi, and the lines of people wrapped around the local churches to buy their pierogi*, decided it was the perfect food to mass-market in grocery stores.  He moved back to Shenandoah and named his company after his mother.  A true success story.

*Ted's fond memories of pierogi making were no different than mine or pretty much anyone else of Eastern European heritage.  My grandmother used to take orders and sell hers by the dozens from the mom and pop grocery store she owned and operated.  Everyone does loves pierogi.  

As my family called it, "Mrs. T's One-Skillet Casserole":

IMG_4421By the 1960's Mrs. T's Pierogy would, on occasion, make their way onto my family's dinner table, but, only in the form of a popular and easy-to-throw-together one-skillet casserole.  I don't know if it was a recipe that appeared on the Mrs. T's box, but, I do know that lots of local-to-our-area cooks were serving it during that era.  A crockpot version eventually came along, which, my dad's sister tried.  It tasted good, but, due to the addition of chicken stock (which I find oddly out of place), it turned out a bit "soupy" -- my Aunt and my mom agreed that wasn't an ideal result. 

IMG_43622  ounces/1/4 cup/1/2 stick salted butter

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  12 1/2-ounce box frozen (do not thaw) Mrs T's classic-cheddar mini-sized pierogi (28 to a box), or, 1 16-ounce box Mrs. T's full-size pierogi (12 to a box)

1  12-ounce ring Polish kielbasa, cut into 28-30, 1/2"-thick slices

1  pound high-quality sauerkraut, undrained

1-1 1/2 cups Colby-Jack cheese blend (4-6 ounces)

1/2  cup sour cream, stirred together with 2 tablespoons water to a drizzly consistency, for topping casserole

1/4  cup minced, fresh parsley leaves, for garnishing casserole

IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368~Step 1.  Dice the onion and mince the parsley as pictured.  In a small bowl or ramekin, thoroughly stir together the sour cream and water until its a smooth, drizzly consistency.  If you have a small plastic squirt/condiment bottle, transfer the sour creamy mixture to it -- it makes for a prettier presentation.  Slice the kielbasa as directed and set aside. 

IMG_4359 IMG_4359 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4392 IMG_4392 ~Step 2.  In the bottom of a large, deep, 12" skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the onion powder, salt and pepper, to season the butter. Add the frozen pierogi, kielbasa and onion. Increase heat to medium- medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly with a slotted spoon or spatula until onion is soft, translucent and just short of browning, about 4-5 minutes.  

IMG_4397 IMG_4397~ Step 3.  Add the sauerkraut.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook until pierogi are fully-cooked, another 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top, adjust heat to low, cover skillet and allow the cheese to melt, about 1 minute.

IMG_4412~ Step 4.  Remove skillet-casserole from stovetop.  Place on the table, drizzle with sour cream and garnish with minced parsley.  Use a large slotted spatula to scoop onto plates and serve immediately.  My mom always served it accompanied by a loaf of high-quality seeded or unseeded rye bread and butter.  Leftovers reheat nicely in the microwave.

Scoop onto plates & taste some coal-cracker comfort food:

IMG_4422Mrs. T's Pierogy Kielbasa & Sauerkraut Casserole:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; ramekin; spoon; small squirt/condiment bottle (optional); large, deep 12" skillet w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4820b9d200dCook's Note:  Known as holubki to me and many of you, stuffed cabbage rolls are beloved in every Eastern European household. Everyone makes them a bit differently, with the constants being: ground meat (beef, pork and/or lamb), cooked rice, steamed green cabbage leaves and a tomato-based sauce.  Because they are labor-intensive, too often they're reserved for holidays or special occasions. That said, those of us in Eastern European inner-circles know there are other ways to bring this knife-and-fork savory comfort food to the weekday table in almost half the time.  Here are my family's favorite ~ Five Ways to Enjoy Slovak-Style Stuffed Cabbage ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

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