The Sunday Food-Related Post: Pittsburgh at Baltimore


Is that Heinz mustard I see?

As I mentioned in last week’s post, this week I’m reimagining a Baltimore specialty as Pittsburgh food. We can totally dominate this, people. And I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I think of Baltimore (or the first nice thing, I suppose) is crab cakes. We’ve got this, people. I give you:

Crabby Pierogie Cake with Golden Aioli

As usual with my “recipes” this is more a philosophy than a hard-and-fast set of rules. The first thing you need is, naturally, pierogies. There are two ways you can go about this. You can make your own pierogies. In which case they can also be Black and Gold Crabby Pierogie Cakes, because you can divide your dough into two batches and color half of it with turmeric and half with squid ink. I’m thinking that if you are the sort of person who makes your own pierogies you probably keep squid ink around the house.

If you’re making your own pierogies you may, naturally, stuff them with whatever you like, along with some lump crab meat. Naturally I would suggest mashed potatoes, but you may think of something even more delicious. If you aren’t, just buy a bag of Mrs. T’s pierogies, the kind with potato filling. You can get giant bags of them at Costco. (And no, I don’t work for Costco. I just shop there a lot.)

Whichever you decide, drop them into salted boiling water for a suitable length of time. (The back of the bag will tell you a suitable amount of time if you’ve bought them. If you make your own, you know way better than I do how long to cook them.) The main point is, you want them nice and sticky.

From this point on I’m assuming you’ve bought your pierogies. Take half of your nice sticky pierogies and lay them out in a single layer in a well-greased cast iron skillet. Or two, depending upon how many pierogies you cooked. When I say “well-greased” I mean either  “as much fat as will either practically deep-fry them, or enough to keep your pierogies from sticking too badly,” according to taste and the state of your cardiac health.  Especially if you are using a copious amount of fat, you should probably stick with something fairly neutral in flavor, as you don’t wish to eradicate the taste of your admittedly expensive crab.

Next cover your pierogies with a lavish layer of embellished crab, preferably crab that you have suitably embellished at some previous point, as your other sticky pierogies are in the process of cementing together. For embellishments you could mix in a smallish amount of mayonnaise, some Old Bay seasoning, and so on. You shouldn’t require the traditional breadcrumbs, as the pierogies provide all of the necessary starch, and more. But don’t let me stop you.

Anyhow, cover the crab with the remaining pierogies and rub them with more of your greasing substance. You can now either bake this until golden, if you prefer not to fuss with it further, or cook it over medium heat on the stovetop until the bottoms of your pierogies are browning, and finish it under the broiler.

For the aioli, mix up mayonnaise, crushed garlic (really well crushed, as nobody wants to find a big old hunk of raw garlic in their sauce. Or hardly anybody….) lemon juice, and salt to taste. Color with turmeric. Start with a very small amount – a pinch or two, and add until you get the color you want. It’s quite effective, and you don’t want it to taste strongly of turmeric. Although if you put enough garlic in nobody will taste anything else anyhow. And no, you can’t just use yellow food coloring. For one thing, that’s just wrong, and for another it won’t give you the right shade of gold anyhow.

You can of course make your own mayonnaise and mix in the garlic from the first. And if you’ve made your own pierogies with crabmeat inside them you can skip the whole “stuff them in a cast-iron skillet” part and just serve them as is, with or without the aioli. But aioli improves pretty much anything…

Assuming, though, that you made a giant pierogie cake, cut it into chunks and drizzle with the sauce. And Go, Steelers!


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