Saturday, February 1, 2020

Unique Polish Winter Soups - Dill & Sauerkraut

Witamy!  Peter’s Mom, who grew up in Poland, often recalled that soup was always an important part of a Polish dinner. Back in the day, appetizers were not served for every day meals, but soups were traditionally served as the first course of dinner - especially in winter when hardworking Poles craved thick, fragrant, creamy, hearty nourishing soups served in deep round bowls.  Before the days of coffee and tea at breakfast, country folks would often start their mornings with a steamy bowl of hearty soup to provide nourishment for the day’s work.  Here are two delicious soups that are uniquely Polish, revered by Poles all over the world.

Dill Soup (Koperkowa) can be served a number of ways:  with either hard boiled eggs as an enhancer (as with the iconic sorrel soup), or  with dribbled batter dumplings (lane kluski in Polish).  When Peter was young, “dribbles”  were an infrequent treat, even though they are incredibly easy to make.  Other popular choices are to serve Dill Soup with potatoes (cooked in the soup), with rice, or even egg noodles.  Regardless of the starch you choose, this is a tasty traditional soup that everyone will love.  

Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter, divided
¾ cup dill, finely chopped
6 cups stock, either: beef, veal, chicken or vegetable
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup cold water
1 egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, add ¼ cup dill and sauté gently over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.
·       Heat stock to boiling and add the dill and butter mixture. 
·       Dissolve the flour in the cold water and add to the stock.  Bring the stock back to a low boil.
·       If you are cooking the string dumplings (see below), dribble the dumpling mixture into the boiling stock and cook for one minute.  Keep soup at a low boil to avoid disintegrating the dumplings.

·       Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Gradually add 1 cup of the boiling stock and stir well.  Stir in the sour cream until the mixture is smooth.  Return this mixture to the soup pot.
·       Simmer for a minute or two but do not boil.  Turn off the heat, add the remaining dill, stir, cover and let stand for 2-3 minutes.
·       Adjust seasonings.

String Dumplings  (Lane Kluseczki)
1 large egg
3½ tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
·       Mix egg with flour and salt.  Beat with whisk or fork for 2 minutes.  Dribble batter slowly into boiling stock from a spoon.

Sauerkraut Soup (Kapusniak) (serves 10) 

1 pound sauerkraut
6 cups beef broth
¼ pound bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tables flour
3 tablespoons cold water
Salt & pepper

Rinse the sauerkraut well in cold water and chop finely. Cover with water and simmer in a covered pot for about 30 minutes, making sure the water doesn’t boil off (add water if needed).  Add the broth. Sauté the bacon and onions until golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and sauté for 5 more minutes while stirring. If the mix is very pasty, add some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir.  Add this onion mix and carrot to the sauerkraut and bring to a low boil. Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with boiled potatoes drizzled with butter and fresh chopped dill.

If you liked these recipes, please check out our globally acclaimed cookbooks:  Polish Classic Recipes and Polish Classic Desserts, available autographed on this website or from any on-line bookseller such as Amazon, world-wide. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Pork & Sauerkraut - Polish Style

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!