When I was little, one of the treats my father would make for us was fried spaghetti. Occasionally we'd have spaghetti and meatballs, and invariably there'd be extra pasta leftover. Instead of saucing it, he'd throw the plain pasta in a frying pan with some butter. He let the pasta sit in the pan until one side browned and crisped up, then flip the whole thing, and repeat. It was one of my favorite things as a kid. Crispy, crunchy, chewy, and full of flavor from the caramelized pasta and butter. It was always a treat for me.
Fast forward to my early twenties when I discovered pierogi. I forget the brand I would buy, but I'd get them in the freezer isle at the grocery store. And I loved them. I'd fry them up in a pan with butter, and the experience reminded me of the fried spaghetti I'd have as a kid, only better, due to the addition of the mashed potato filling. Carbs on carbs. Yum.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining at Muza the Eastern European restaurant in Troy. Everything we had was delicious (I especially recommend the potato pancakes), except one item, the pierogi. I didn't care for them, nor did anyone in our group. The main downfall being the overly thick pasta shell, it was gummy, and there wasn't enough filling. We tried some fried, and they lacked crispness and that wonderful caramelized pasta flavor I love so much.
About a month before Muza, I went to the Purple Pub in Watervliet. They had pierogis as a special on the menu "made by the church down the street". They were fantastic, and that the local church made them, only added to their appeal.
Those two experiences reignited my interest in pierogi.
Just last week, due to the positive Yelp reviews, I decided to head over to Chester's Smokehouse and buy some of their cured meats. While there, I noticed they also sell pierogi, and decided to get some of the cheddar and potato filled variety with my meat purchase. I'm glad I did. Admittedly, I have not had a ton of pierogi over the years, but these are by far the best I can remember eating.
It's obvious they are hand made. They're all irregularly shaped. They're pre-cooked and coated with a thin layer of fat (which looks to me to be either shortening or butter, it's hard to tell). They are a good size. I've been eating three at a clip, and it's plenty for a quick lunch or decadent breakfast. On that note, I did try the corned beef hash variety, and they go great with a runny fried egg.
I've tried several types now, and while all are good, the cheddar potato is by far the best.
They're generously filled, with a perfect balance of mashed potato and cheddar cheese. The well-seasoned potato mixture has a pleasant, but mild, black pepper kick. The thickness of the pasta is just right too, not too thick, not too thin, and they brown up in a buttered frying pan to a drool inducing crisp and golden crust.
They fry up in minutes, and there's no need for any condiments. I eat them unadorned, right out of the pan, while the filling is still steaming hot. They're a quick, delicious and filling treat.
The price can't be beat either, for only $7.50 you get a full dozen large pierogi. That's a steal.