When I first moved to Ligonier, I really struggled to make friends, which I hear is pretty typical.
Friends are handed to you on a platter in college — if you have a class together or join a student organization you already know you have something in common. And you can always test the waters by getting together to study.
But post-college, it’s really hard.
My first friend in Pennsylvania was the woman who worked in the mattress store where I bought my bed. My second friend was a reporter who covered the same meetings as me, but worked for a competing publication. His family owns a local bar, and he would, without fail, invite me to have a drink with him after every meeting. Occasionally, I said yes.
It’s a dive bar located on the outskirts of town. The lighting is low, there’s a well-worn pool table and people can smoke inside the building. Bud Light is served out of mason jars for $1, not to be trendy, but because that’s the way beer has been served for the last 50 years. There’s an arcade game that people use to test their punching strength. Sometimes there are fights there, but there’s also no shortage of employees and patrons who are really good at breaking up the fights. On weekend nights during the summer they have a big bonfire outside where people gather long after the bar is closed.
On football Sundays all the regular customers bring a dish to share at the bar in this big giant potluck. Beer is reduced to 50 cents/mason jar on those days, and there’s, like, a thousand different kinds of food, including pierogi pizza.
Pierogi pizza is 100 percent a Pittsburgh-area invention. I don’t know who the heck thought, let’s put mashed potatoes on a pizza, but they’re a genius.
I know it seems like starch overload, but somehow potatoes on pizza crust go together really well. Although the health benefits of this pizza are probably down on the low side, it made for a fun special treat.
I started by making potatoes the regular way. I boiled some cut up potatoes for about 20 minutes. I also got my previously made frozen ball of pizza dough out of the freezer to thaw. And I started a skillet full of melted butter and a chopped onion on low heat so the onions would begin to caramelize.
I drained the potatoes, added some half and half and butter and used my immersion blender to blend them until they were fluffy and smooth. I added them back to the hot pot to try and eliminate any extra moisture. By the time my mashed potatoes were done, so were my onions.
Then I began to assemble my pizza onto my rolled-out crust. The mashed potatoes thinned and spread out quite a bit in the oven, and I used way too much. Leave a good three or four inches around the whole pizza to allow for that.
I layered mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese on top.
I baked the pizza for about 20 minutes and then let it sit on top of the oven for another 10 before slicing and serving.
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 stick butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup half and half
1 serving of pizza dough
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Peel and chop potatoes into 1-inch cubes and add to a medium-sized sauce pot. Cover with cool water until potatoes are covered with about 1 inch of water. Boil for 20 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and add chopped onion. Saute over low heat only stirring a few times to allow the onion pieces to caramelize. Chop remaining butter in cubes.
Preheat oven to 415 degrees.
Drain potatoes and add back to hot pot. Add cubed butter and half and half to potatoes and use an electric mixer, immersion blender or potato masher to mash until smooth and fluffy.
Remove browned (nearly blackened) onions from heat and roll out pizza dough onto a flour-covered surface. Transfer to pizza pan.
Add mashed potatoes leaving three inches around the pizza to allow for the potatoes to spread in the oven. Sprinkle onions and mozzarella on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and has brown spots and the edges of the crust are golden.
Allow pizza to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. (It’s delicious with Ranch dressing, if you’re into that.)
Printable recipe here.