Last week my lovely boyfriend turned 30. In order to celebrate, I decided to throw a party that was not only a celebration of who he is, but also a celebration of Pennsylvania, where he grew up. We had tons of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania-themed foods and drinks and spent the evening talking and laughing with friends. It was a great way to celebrate one of my favorite people on the planet. Below, I’ve included descriptions of the foods we served, along with tips on how to prepare them.
When I proposed the PA-themed shindig to Andrew, his first thought was that we had to have pierogi. Traditionally pierogi are pieces of dough filled with mashed potatoes and cheese and that are boiled until they float, then served with sour cream and onions. In Andrew’s family, however, his mom takes the boiled pierogi and sautés them in a little butter to give the dough a crisper texture. To make the dish you can either prepare your own pierogi from scratch or buy them frozen in the grocery store. We used the Mrs. T’s brand. Here’s a picture of the sautéed pierogi and a shot of Andrew cooking up a storm.
Next, we served up some kielbasa. To be fair, these weren’t quite the real deal. We used chicken sausage to help balance out the evening and make the dish a little healthier. Pair the kielbasa or sausage with a little sour kraut and mustard, and voila! And it wouldn’t be a PA-party without a little Heinz ketchup. To prepare these, we bought a package of chicken sausage at the store, cut it into chunks, and sautéed it until everything was warmed through.
After the pierogi and kielbasa, we offered up our homemade version of a Primanti’s sandwich. A Pittsburgh institution, the Primanti’s sandwich comes not only with the usual fixins’, but also with cole slaw and french fries on the sandwich. According to Andrew, the tradition all started when truckers would come into the restaurant. They needed a meal that was quick, easy, and something they could eat on the go. Thus the Primanti’s sandwich was born. Though we weren’t able to locate a vinegar-based cole slaw in time (a must–mayo-based slaw just wouldn’t do), we did cook up some frozen fries that people could use to top their Philly Cheese Steaks.
Now in my opinion, the key to any good Philly Cheese Steak is to make sure that the meat itself has a good flavor before you go throwing all kinds of stuff on top of it. We used about two pounds of flat iron beef steak, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into strips about a quarter of an inch wide, and sprinkled it all with a standard mesquite style rub before cooking. After that it was just a matter of throwing it in a pan on medium-high heat to get everything nice and brown. Here’s a shot of the finished product:
As a die-hard Steelers fan, the Terrible Towel, of course, had to be in full view.
And it wouldn’t have been a party without some Pittsburgh-based brews: Iron City and Rolling Rock.
Then it was time to cut the cake–homemade, of course! I used the basic vanilla cake recipe from Southern Living covered it in a layer of standard buttercream that I added a white chocolate flavoring to. Add a sprinkling of crushed pistachios between each layer and on top, and poof! You’ve got yourself a birthday cake.
So as you can see, the party was not only tons of fun, but simple to throw together. Using mostly pre-made ingredients helped cut down on the preparation and gave me more time to spend on the birthday cake. Have a friend or family member with a birthday coming up? How do you plan to spend the day? Leave a comment or share your ideas below!