Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Pork & Sauerkraut - Polish Style


Witamy!
As the weather turns colder, our taste buds turn to comfort food, dishes that are satisfying and stick to your ribs.  We often take turns in the kitchen but when I’m the designated chef, simple and easy is the way to go.  I’m not looking for a long list of ingredients and prep time should be no longer than a 30-minute news broadcast.  Are you with me? 

So we often turn to pork.  Have you seen those TV commercials that declared pork as “the other white meat”  It’s true because pork production has improved a lot and we no longer have to cook it to “flavor-death” for safety’s sake.  If I’m grilling chops over a direct flame, a little bit of light pink in the middle is my goal.

We love pork because it is so versatile and hard to screw up – so long as you don’t dry it out.  And I’m a huge fan of stewed sauerkraut, as in our iconic Hunter’s Stew recipe (Polish Classic Recipes, Page 49).  It has a natural tang which pairs beautifully with almost any meat, and it just sings when you add layers of additional flavorings such as mushrooms, tomato or apple.  Whether sweet or savory, sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods.


So yesterday I brought home a couple of bone-in loin chops (tip: bone-in has more flavor) about one inch thick and a small, one-pound bag of sauerkraut.


As soon as I got home, I grabbed a handful of dried forest mushrooms (bought in bulk on Amazon) from our stash in the pantry, and put them in a big mug of hot water (12 ounces) to soak.  Don’t throw away the mushroom water – it has great flavor.   After the mushrooms softened, I rough-chopped them.



Next, I put a tablespoon of oil into a deep skillet, browned the chops, set them aside, and lightly sautéed a small chopped onion - making sure the heat didn’t get too high to burn the brown pork bits in the bottom of the pan;

With a hard spatula I scraped and loosened the pork bits leaving them IN the pan for flavoring. Then I rinsed the sauerkraut three times to help dilute some of the harsh tang.  

The sauerkraut and mushrooms went back in the pan with some additional flavoring.  For a sweeter style you could add half a tart apple which has been cut into wedges.  Personally, I prefer a more savory taste and added a bay leaf and one teaspoon of caraway seeds.

Next went in some salt and pepper, stirred lightly to blend all the flavorings. Then the chops went back in the skillet, kind of pushed down into the sauerkraut;


Finally, the reserved mushroom water was poured over the top, covered the skillet tightly with a lid, and cooked on a very low simmer for an hour or so;  
Once or twice I checked the skillet to make sure the liquid hadn’t evaporated.  The easy test for doneness is to stick a fork in the chop -- after an hour the pork should be almost falling off the bone and the fork should twist easily.

Mashed potatoes are a favorite with this dish, but any green vegetable is healthier.  In Poland they’d be serving this with shots of ice-cold vodka, but a glass of hearty red wine is just great.
I spent less than six bucks on the pork and sauerkraut, less than 20 minutes prepping, and the two of us got a big meal out of it.  It was full of big bold flavors, the pork was moist, and the whole dish was healthy, so that goes down as a big win.  Polish Pork and Sauerkraut – yum!   Smacznego!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Awesome Apple Desserts - Polish Style


Witamy!

It’s apple time!  Local orchards are full and ready for picking.  Our farmer’s markets are overflowing with many varieties of fresh picked apples including those “not-so-pretty” local varieties. In fact Peter just read about one orchard featuring “heirloom apples”...yes, they were deformed and misshapen, but apparently just delicious. 

There’s an apple orchard just up the road and their apple cider barrels are brimming with fresh and tangy, amazing cider - if you can swat the bees away which are looking for a treat as well.  We’ve always preferred the fresh pressed, unpasteurized, straight-out-of-the-barrel kind because the taste is so much more intense. 

Apples are an important part of Polish cuisine and here are two favorite desserts that Peter’s Mom made for him every fall.

Apple and Rice Delight
Serves 6
    4  cups, semi-tart, peeled, cored and shredded apples  (use those ugly local ones, because they taste great, are often cheapest and most plentiful, and they support your local produce farms.) 
    1  tablespoon cinnamon
    1/2  cup brown sugar
4     cups cooked rice, not precooked or instant rice
cups sour cream
4     tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  In a bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar with the shredded apples and mix well.
Grease a 9-inch baking dish (or glass pie pan)  and spread out the rice and apples in the pan , in alternating layers  (rice/apples/rice/apples/rice) .
Cover and bake for 40 minutes.  In the mean time, whisk the sour cream and sugar into a sauce and set aside.
Let the dish cool down a bit.  Serve warm in small bowls, topped with the sweet sour cream sauce. 
Note:  the top layer of rice may get a little crunchy, but that gives it a great texture.

Stuffed Apples  (Serves 6)
·       3 tablespoons honey
·       3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
·       3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
·       2 tablespoons orange liqueur  *
·       6 medium apples  (sweet, not tart)
·       3 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  Mix the honey with the walnuts, cracker crumbs and liqueur  * or substitute with 2 tablespoons orange juice plus ½ teaspoon orange zest.    Cut the tops off the apples and core to remove the seeds.  Fill the holes with the stuffing.  Top with ½ teaspoon of butter and cover with the apple tops.    Place close to one another in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour.  Serve warm.  Maybe with a scoop of ice cream to be really awesome.
Smacznego!


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Chilled Fruit Soups - Summer's Delight



Witamy!   It's a hot summer this year and our local farmers’ market is overflowing with delicious fruit.  And the shelves in our local grocery stores are displaying huge varieties of summer fruit - just ripe and ready to be loved.  This is the time of year for chilled summer fruit soups – a unique and original element of Polish cuisine.  blueberry soup image courtesy of "przyslijprzeps.pl
We serve them on hot summer days for lunch, as in-between refreshers, or even a light supper. They are refreshing, full of flavor, and always enjoyed by everyone in the family, regardless of age.  These fruit soups are not too sweet and Poles eat them as a first course for supper or as a heartier main course with noodles.  Sometimes they are served after the main course, as a healthier replacement for dessert.

Chilled Blueberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart blueberries
1 slice white bread
4 cups water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
Croutons

Add the blueberries and bread to one cup of boiling water. Bring back to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix in a blender for just a few seconds until smooth.  Add remaining 3 cups of boiling water, spices and sugar, blend well until smooth.  Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  Just before serving, add sour cream to the soup tureen and mix.  Garnish each serving with croutons.

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1 quart buttermilk
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
Using a blender, mix the strawberries and 1 cup of the buttermilk for a few seconds until smooth.  Add the sugar and remaining buttermilk and mix well.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with home-made buttery croutons. 

For two delicious varieties, substitute 3 pints of pitted Italian plums or 3 pints of pitted cherries, and increase the sour cream a bit to 2/3 cup.
Smacznego!