Thursday, August 2, 2018

Classic Sauces for Polish Cabbage Rolls


Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki in Polish) are an iconic Polish comfort food enjoyed by hungry eaters all over the world.   Our American friends love them as much as our Polish friends.  Legend has it that in 1465 King Kazimierz IV fed cabbage rolls to his army prior to the Battle of Malbork against the Teutonic knights.  The brave Poles defeated the Teutonic Order and their victory was credited to the high nutritional value and strength-boosting qualities of their cabbage rolls. 

If you follow any of the Polish heritage social media sites, you know that everyone has their own spin on cabbage rolls.  Some are small,  some are large,  some have varying meat mixtures, and there many sauce recipes,  sometimes based on canned soup.  We believe that freshly prepared sauces from great ingredients will make a huge difference in your cabbage rolls.  Here are two classic sauces for you to try:

Tomato Sauce from Laura’s Babcia
1 14-ounce can of whole tomatoes
1 stick of salted butter (same as 8 TBSP or ½ cup) 
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the tomatoes and butter to a slow boil.  Break up the tomatoes as they cook.  Simmer this mixture until it thickens – about 20 to 30 minutes.  Using a traditional standing blender or immersion blender, blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Pour over the cabbage rolls and bake for one hour at 350 F°.  Periodically spoon some of the sauce over the cabbage rolls to keep the tops moist. 

Mushroom Sauce from Peter’s Mom
1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large onion, shopped finely
1 cup chicken stock or bouillon
2½ tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cold water
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup sour cream

Simmer the mushrooms and onion in the bouillon for 15 minutes.  Mix the flour with cold water and stir in.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Blend in the sour cream and mix well.  Pour over the cabbage rolls before baking. 

You could also forgo any sauces and bake the cabbage rolls in their own juices, adding some water or broth, and flour at the end to thicken it up.  Whether you prefer Tomato Sauce, Mushroom Sauce or none, your cabbage rolls are sure to be a hit with anyone at your table.  We like to serve them with Polish beer, icy vodka shots, or a hearty red wine. 

PS:  For a "must-have" collection of great heritage recipes check out our two globally acclaimed Polish cookbooks: Polish Classic Recipes and Polish Classic Desserts - where all the recipes have been handed down from previous generations, but updated for modern kitchens.  Also, listen to us discuss great heritage Polish cuisine in our vignette called Smacznego, every month at:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Fine Art of Polish Canapés (Kanapki)

Whether you call them hors d’oeuvres, starters, or fancy appetizers, Canapés, (Kanapki in Polish) have always held an important place in classic Polish cuisine, especially on special festive occasions.  In pre-war Poland, it was customary to greet important guests with bread and salt on a tray, signifying the host’s readiness to share everything valuable.  Hospitality was always held sacred in Poland, according to a belief that “a guest in the house – is God in the house!”  

Kanapki are multi-layer bites of goodness that are the perfect finger food for a cocktail party or starter for a larger dinner party.  Most are assembled from little rounds of rye bread or pumpernickel, artfully layered with components such as cheese spreads, green and black olive, herring, small slices of kielbasa, sardine, small cheese slices, and much more.  

Back in the day, Peter’s parents loved to entertain at home.  And Peter’s Dad was a master Canapé artist.   The morning of a fancy house party, he would line up all his ingredients on the kitchen counter and form an assembly line.  Then he would start the creative process.  His tools were a small cutting board, sharp paring knife, cocktail fork and tweezers.  

Heading up the line were three types of bread:  cocktail rye, pumpernickel rounds, and slices of French baguette cut into thin, two or three-inch slices.

The first layer was usually a soft spread such as butter, brie cheese, pâté, or one of the spreads below. 

The second layer could be a protein:  slice of kielbasa, smoked salmon, piece of sardine or pickled herring. 

The third layer could be a slice of pickle, tomato or sometimes a slice of hard boiled egg. 

Finally that gorgeous “tower of flavor” was topped off with a tiny dollop of sour cream or mayo, and then a bit of caviar or a sprig of dill.  Peter’s Dad didn’t follow any rules or recipes, but his creations were all about great ingredients, creating an amazing balanced bite, and of course - the visual presentation.   It’s an art form.

Here are several spreads that work well as the first layer on your cocktail bread.  Let your creativity run wild and go for it!

Mustard Butter
½ cup softened butter
½ cup course, whole grain mustard
Blend the butter and mustard until creamy. 
Variations:   instead of the mustard, try with:  2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions;  or two tablespoons of fresh chopped dill;  or 1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish (more or less to taste).  

PS:  For a "must-have" collection of great heritage recipes check out our two acclaimed Polish cookbooks: Polish Classic Recipes and Polish Classic Dessertswhere all the recipes have been handed down from previous generations, but updated for modern kitchens.  Also, listen to us discuss great heritage Polish cuisine in our vignette called Smacznego, every month at:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Let's Get "Saucy" - Polish Style


In Polish cuisine, sauces are not quite so prolific or complicated as in France.  This image is of a beautiful flounder recipe with a light lemon sauce, found on Page 50, of our cook book: Polish Classic Recipes.  The right Polish sauce can elevate your cooking to the next level.  The key to success is in the right proportions of fat, flour, liquids, flavorings, and patience.  Always cook your sauces on low heat, always stir vigorously.  Today’s immersion blenders are super for getting the lumps out.

Here are a few important tips:
Instant flour, such as Wondra, can be a big help because it yields a smoother and less lumpy texture with less mixing  It's not always easy to find, but worth a spot in your pantry.
Never add flour to a hot sauce but do add sauce to the flour, a spoon at a time while constantly stirring.

Never boil a sauce with sour cream because it will separate.  And if it does separate, you can often save it by cooling it down and adding some more sour cream to the sauce.

Chicken or beef stocks are easiest to work with; bouillon cubes can be dissolved and used but watch the saltiness.  Base stock (highly concentrated stock in a jar – beef, chicken, mushroom) is great for kicking up flavor but use it very sparingly because it can be very salty. 

Here are a few traditional Polish sauces with great versatility.

Dill Pickle Sauce
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup beef stock
½ cup pickle juice from the jar
3 large dill pickles, shredded
½ cup sour cream
                                        Salt to taste
Heat the stock.  Mix the butter with the flour over low heat.  Stir in the hot stock gradually. Stir in the pickle liquid. Bring to a low boil while stirring constantly.  Add the pickles.  Add the sour cream very slowly while stirring.  Heat but do not let it boil.  Season with salt.   Serve over beef roast and boiled potatoes.

Dill Sauce
1 cup chicken or beef stock
3 tablespoons flour
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped dill (fresh has more flavor)
½ cups sour cream
Salt to taste
Put the flour in a small saucepan.  Stir in the stock (room temperature) into the flour gradually, while stirring. Bring to a low boil stirring constantly.  Add the dill and remove from heat. Add sour cream. Season with salt.  Serve warm over braised meats and dry casseroles. 

Dried Mushroom Sauce
1 ounce dried mushrooms
1 cup water
3 ½ tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cold water
Salt & pepper
½ cup sour cream
Rinse the dried mushroom very thoroughly.  Rehydrate them by soaking in 1 cup hot water for about an hour.  Bring the soaking mushrooms in their water to a low boil for another 45 minutes, or until they are soft.   Rough chop the mushrooms. Combine the broth into the flour mixed with 4 tablespoons cold water.  Fold in the chopped mushrooms and bring to a low boil while stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool a bit and add the sour cream very slowly while stirring constantly.  Serve over meatloaf, meat balls or any braised meats.  

Cold Mustard Sauce
2 tablespoon prepared (yellow) mustard
Salt to taste
1 cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon sugar
Mix all the ingredients well; serve over cold ham, kielbasa, cold pork loin, or boiled eggs.  This sauce is very popular at Easter. 

Cold Green Onion Sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
4 tables finely chopped green onions (scallions) 
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients well; serve over cold ham, kielbasa, cold pork loin, or boiled eggs. 

Cold Horseradish Sauce
5 ounces prepared horseradish
1 large apple, peeled & shredded
1 cup sour cream
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar
Mix the horseradish with the apples. Add the sour cream. Season with salt and sugar.  Serve with fish, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs.