Episode 3: “The Plight of Mischief Night”

Hi everyone!

skeleton chef

Chef John here! On this Halloween-inspired episode of Cheap Date we are making butternut squash pierogis.

This recipe is great because it’s super cheap, easy to make, and delicious! These polish-style dumplings are fun to fold and can be filled with many different starchy fillings!


As per usual, we love using local produce and today we will be utilizing locally-grown butternut squash from our friends at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT!

Now let’s see what kind of trouble you got into and how we are going to get you out of it, this week on…

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So, Here’s the Scenario:

Congratulations! You just landed your dream job shredding possibly incriminating documents at the area’s largest venture capital firm!

Okay, so maybe it’s not your “dream job,” but it’s a hell of a lot better than de-turding fresh shrimp at the local seafood grocery, which is what you’ve been doing for the past year-and-a-half since you graduated with your B.S. in Business Administration.

This new gig comes complete with:

* a livable salary

* health benefits

* a generous retirement package

* two pens (one blue, one red) per week from the staff stationary closet!


The whole nine yards!

They even supply free lunch daily in the common room! Yup, that’s right free lunch!

But don’t go collecting on that quinoa & English cucumber salad just yet …


shit’s about to get real.

You are so excited about finally being able to take your phone off silent due to the near-constant calls from collections agencies that you decide to go out for a celebratory drink at your favorite brewpub!

The night starts with a delicious New England Style IPA on tap, chosen at random from their selection of 432 local microbrews.


Next thing you know you’re talking about your new job to the bartender (guy named Brice with arms the size of your legs, who keeps addressing you as Broseph) and the next round is on the house!

Maybe it was actually your third

It’s becoming difficult to remember because that lovable gentleman who might as well be glued to a bar stool in this place heard about your newfound success and the next thing you know it’s shots of whiskey!

Then some other guy who doesn’t even seem to know what’s going on but wants to get in on the drink-buying fun orders a round of well tequila for everyone and things really start to spiral out of control!

Did I mention it’s mischief night?

At this point you’re feeling pretty good, everyone is drinking, talking too loud, telling stories of the escapades of their youth, you know, usual dive bar conversations and you gradually begin to feel nostalgic.

Somewhere between a conversation about mummifying your neighbor’s hemlock tree in T.P. 15 years ago, the several shots of various spirits that were bought for you, and your departure from the bar, you end up with a bag full of a dozen extra large eggs, an 8-pack of toilet paper, and some pre-sliced bologna!


With only about a quarter of your wits about you (a generous estimate) and a stomach full of … umm … nostalgia, you proceed to walk home with your recently acquired bag of mischief.

Next thing you know you’re caught in the moment! Throwing bologna on cars! Wrapping up trees in toilet paper! Throwing eggs at houses with a wild abandon you haven’t felt since before you sprouted hair in your armpits!

Finally, you stumble the remaining few blocks home and end up passing out on your couch like a happy little baby, the resin of bologna grease and raw eggs still encrusted on your hands.

Knock, knock, knock!

It’s the next morning and someone is banging loudly on your door.

Its 8am on a Saturday, who could it be?

You get up off your couch, stumble to the door and answer nonchalantly and it’s … the police!

No not Sting’s band … it’s a couple of representatives from your friendly local law enforcement department!

Turns out they had a complaint about someone vandalizing the neighborhood last night and when they went to investigate this morning, they happened to find your wallet next to the bushes at poor old Mrs. Kowalski’s house. Yup, the one with the receipt in it for the bologna, toilet paper, and dozen eggs you bought last night.

With your hands still greasy from the bologna and raw egg dried on your pants, the receipt in your wallet and that hung over look in your eyes, the boys in blue decide to take you down to the station.

Unfortunately, you made a big mistake!

Mischief night is not what it once was and these days vandalizing someone’s private property doesn’t simply end with a slap on the wrist … especially when you’re 30 years old!

Your only hope is to make this right with your sweet elderly neighbor Mrs. Kowalski so she doesn’t proceed to press charges against you for your actions, causing you untold expenses in legal fees and possibly even putting your new dream job in jeopardy!

Don’t worry, Chef John is here with a delicious, seasonal, easy-to-make pierogi recipe that is sure to warm Mrs. Kowalski heart! 

You might want to get your ass over there and start cleaning up the mess you made as well!

Who knows, maybe she will be so endeared as to eat the pierogis you made her in front of you and then explain how much better her pierogis are?!

Let’s get started!


Dough Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 large egg

½ cup sour cream

6 tbsp. unsalted butter

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt

Filling Ingredients

½ butternut squash roasted & pureed

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ cup olive oil


Other Ingredients

2 shallots julienned

½ cup of crème fraiche

2 eggs

2 tbsp. butter


1. To make the dough; mix flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and egg into a mixing bowl by hand. Then add sour cream, melted butter in two parts and mix together gently into a ball. Knead and fold the dough ball until it becomes less sticky but still moist. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minute


2. To make the filling; peel, core and cut butternut squash into 1/2in by 1/2in cubes, toss in olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 400F, no convection.


3. When cutting up your squash, core the seeds using a spoon. Rinse off with cold water, removing an extra squash guts, toss in olive oil, salt & pepper and toast for 5-10 minutes in the oven at 400F. Let cool to room temperature and set aside for garnish.


4. Once cooked, remove the squash from the oven, let cool to room temperature, set 6-8 cubes aside and puree the rest by hand with a fork or gloves. Once mashed up, mix in the remainder of ingredients and set aside.


5. Take your dough out of the refrigerator and roll it to 1/8-inch thick using some extra flour and a rolling pin or a pasta roller. Once rolled out use a 2-inch round dough cutter to cut out circles. I suggest doing them with a 2-inch cutter but if you want to make them bigger or smaller that’s cool too!


6. Crack two eggs into a bowl and whisk together. Add a teaspoon of the filling to the center of each cut dough circle, gently rub a small amount of the whisked eggs on one side of the dough, fold over and use a fork or a dumpling press to crimp the edges. I suggest the dumpling press, they are cheap and you can find them on amazon! Repeat this process, recombining dough scraps, rolling it out again, cutting, filling, crimping, etc.


7. Fill a pot with water, add a tsp of salt, bring to a boil and then poach your pierogis until they float to the top of the water. Remove with slotted spoon and let cool to room temperature.


8. In a large cast iron pan heat to medium heat, caramelize your shallots and set aside. Clean the pan, add butter and heat to medium heat. Add your pierogis to the pan and brown on each side. In your serving plate using a spoon, swoop the crème fraiche in an X pattern, place pierogis on top, then garnish with caramelized shallots and cubed roasted butternut squash.


9. Enjoy! 

Chef’s Tip

When mixing your dough be sure to add dry ingredients first and then wet ingredients in 2-3 increments while mixing. This will help create the right consistency for the dough without having to add extra flour or additional wet ingredients.

Chef’s Tip

When filling your pierogis make sure not to overfill them, just dab will do ya… a teaspoons worth or in some cases a ½ a teaspoon will be plenty!

Chef’s Tip

When prepping your pierogis keep a small bowl of flour and shoot a little flour on each side of them as you line them up on your sheet tray with parchment paper. This will prevent them from sticking!

Plating and other Stuff…


Plating this dish is pretty simple.


1. We take our cinnamon & nutmeg infused crème fraiche and swoop it with a spoon to make an X in the center on the bowl coming up the sides.


2. Then we place the browned pierogis, two each in each corner of the X and then place remaining pierogis strategically on top if serving family style.


3. Use your caramelized shallots, roasted butternut squash cubes, and toasted squash seeds to use as additional garnishes on your plate!


Chef’s Tip

A good-looking plate can make your dish presentation pop!


Under our, “Things You might want to Need” section I added a link to some churchill china plate ware that I love. I use it at both my restaurants, Elm City Social and Olives and Oil, its durable and they make plenty of vintage style prints! Check out their website at https://www.churchill1795.com.

If you have the time, go fishing for actual vintage plates at your local garage or house sales! Maybe you will find yourself an entire set…or at least close to it!

What to drink?


Drink Cascade Brewing’s Pumpkin Smash! I fell in love with this sour beer last year and I can’t get enough of it. Its funky, crisp, highlights real pumpkin flavor and has all the yeasty sour mouth feels that Cascade Brewing Co. beers are known for. This beer is great on its own but better with these pierogis!


What to listen to?

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What type of music is good for a Fall midafternoon in the kitchen? One of my favorite albums is the Velvet Underground’s, The Velvet Underground & Nico. A true artistic compellation of musical genius, this album pairs well with a cloudy day, a sour beer and some pan-fried dumplings!

Chef’s Closing Notes:

So just real quick…these pierogi dumplings can be filled with many things including; roasted sweet potatoes, cheesy mashed potatoes, pumpkin, ground meats, beets, cheeses and more…the list goes on and on and on! So be sure to try out different filling options on your own and tell us what you did and how it tasted! I hope you enjoyed this episode and feel free to follow us, comment or post pictures of your completed dishes or just say hi on Facebook and Instagram @cheapdateblog!

Stay tuned for episode 4 when I show you how to make my almost famous Elm City Burger from my restaurant, Elm City Social located in historic downtown New Haven, CT! Get excited! I’m giving away trade secrets here people!

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Things You Might Want to Need…


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