Even though I don’t much care for football, I do care for football snacks. During the rest of the week, a snack is a granola bar or a piece of fruit—on football days, a snack is eight wings, 17 pigs in a blanket, a pint of dip, four pieces of party sub and a plate of fully loaded nachos. Then after the game is over, you can eat a sensible dinner of a tossed salad, which you can get for free as long as you order two medium-sized pizzas.
While participating in this week’s edition of The Takeout’s Fantasy Food Draft, I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the football snack oeuvre. No matter how impressive my appetite, there is no possible way for me to actually consume all the things I want to eat without some very, very bad things happening. So what happens when you find yourself faced with an impossible decision, like choosing between pretzels and pierogi? As we at The Takeout are wont to say: Why not both?
Pretzels’ distinctive flavor comes from a short boil in a highly alkaline solution, traditionally made by mixing water with lye (pH: 13). Lye is extremely caustic and can cause chemical burns, so it’s not exactly the sort of ingredient most people keep in their pantry, nor is it easy to find food-grade lye in small quantities. Most pretzel recipes meant for home cooks rely on baking soda— a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate—as a substitute, but with a pH of 9, it just doesn’t have the alkaline oomph of lye. Solution? Turn that pantry box of sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate (pH: 11) by baking it.
It only takes one hour in the oven for baking soda to transform from fridge deodorizer to powerhouse pretzel powder—one which you can dilute in water to pretzel-fy whatever you please. In this recipe I used frozen pierogi, as they’re relatively easy for most of you to find in your local supermarket. If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where fresh pierogi are readily available, or patient enough to make your own, feel free to use those instead! It doesn’t matter what flavor you use, either—follow your bliss. If you’re making these for a crowd, you can also multiply the recipe as many times as you’d like, bake ahead of time, and then warm up when your guests are ready to eat. You don’t need guests to make this, though. You don’t need football. You don’t need any excuses, really, because any time can and should be pretzel pierogi time.
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 5 cups lukewarm water
- 1 (16-oz.) box of frozen pierogi
- Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Put baking soda into a baking pan, give it a little shake to even it out, and then bake for one hour.
Being careful not to inhale it, pour the baked baking soda into a bowl with the water and stir well to dissolve. Add the pierogi and let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet well with a bit of oil or softened butter.
Remove the pierogi from the pretzel water, giving each a little shake to dry off , and arrange on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 17-20 minutes until slightly brown. Serve with mustard, melted cheese, or whatever else you like to eat with your pretzels.