Sunday, January 7, 2018

Chicken In Lemon Sauce From Warsaw

Witamy!  Best wishes for the New Year!

We’ve been eating a lot more chicken lately, its lean, healthy, budget-friendly, and generally easy to prepare.  One of the smartest ways to get a chicken on the table these days, especially for dual wage-earner families, is to buy a rotisserie chicken from your neighborhood grocery store.  

Our challenge though, is that Peter really hates dried out white meat and he’s not a big fan of left overs.  Since there are only two of us most evenings, we can’t finish a whole chicken.  That means that Laura has to work hard to reinvent the leftovers into something delicious.

One of our favorite preparations is this “Chicken in Lemon Sauce from Warsaw.”   This was Peter’s Great-Grandfather’s favorite dish and for years it would always put him in a good mood.  However, Great-Grandmother used it for that purpose a little too often because over time he became suspicious, expecting bad news to follow after each time he saw Chicken In Lemon Sauce on the table.  

We love this recipe and not just for left-overs.  Often we will roast our own chicken, or buy one, specifically to debone and let the pieces swim in this awesome, light & bright lemon sauce.  We like to serve it over rice with fresh veggies and a salad on the side. 

Serves 6
One 3-pound chicken, cooked, skinned, de-boned, cut into pieces.
2 tablespoons soft butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons cold water
1 ¾ cups of chicken broth 
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Salt & pepper to taste.

Bring the broth to a boil.  In a separate pan, mix the butter with the flour well.  Stir in 5 tablespoons of the hot broth, one at a time.  Add this mix back to rest of the boiling broth.  Remove from the heat.  Add the egg yolks beaten with the cold water. Stir in half of the lemon juice. Taste.  The sauce should be bright and clearly lemony but not so tart that it puckers your lips.  Add more lemon juice if desired.  Sprinkle in the dill.  Taste again.  Season as needed but be careful with the salt since dill can add a salty back note to the sauce. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Eve & New Year's - Preserving our Polish Heritage


Our traditional Christmas Eve supper (Wigilia)  is in just a few days. There are a lot of stories circulating discussing Wigilia traditions in great depth and talking about the history, meanings and significances of all the little details and nuances.  Those writings are interesting but today not so practical for many of us.  Over the time of several generations being removed from the old country, many traditions have become less strict and families have adapted to modern values and cultural comfort zones.
Yet, it is the responsibility of the family leaders to not let go of the traditions completely.

When Peter was young, his parents faithfully followed most of the big ones...starting Wigilia at the light of the first star, sharing the wafer (oplatek), setting an extra place at the table for the wayfaring stranger, 12 meatless course for supper, and so on. 

But Peter’s parents are no longer with us and our daughter is an adult with her own family.  Travelling to our house for Wigilia and then getting home for their American Christmas Day celebration makes life more complicated.   So the practicality of 12 courses starting at a strict time with the light of the first star becomes less important than making sure the celebration is stress free and focuses on the family.  Not everyone at our table eats fish and we’ve cut back the 12 courses for health reasons.  
But no one will be wearing jeans or a ball cap because after all Wigilia is special and only comes once a year. 

We still make our wishes for each other with the sharing of a wafer from Poland.  We’ve gotten away from a few of the less popular heritage dishes, but we each have something traditional on the menu that is special and beloved.

Each of the dishes we enjoy for Wigilia is in our book: Polish Classic Recipes:  

Crepes with Sauerkraut & Mushrooms
Classic Barszcz (beet soup)
Vegetables Polonaise
* Baked Fish with Mushrooms & Cheese

Holiday Nut Roll
Honey Cake 
And multi-national holiday goodies exchanged with the neighbors


If you aren’t going out this year to celebrate New Year’s Eve, you could host a dinner party for friends or family (or certainly both).  Make it easy on yourself, plan a delicious menu (from our book) and ask everyone to bring a dish.   For us it’s gotta be comfort food that goes best with the adult beverages to be consumed that night.

Greet everyone with a favorite cocktail or a glass of bubbly.  As an appetizer, serve a selection of pretty canapés made up that afternoon.  Use round crackers or cocktail squares of dark and light rye bread...see how creative you can get with stacking the ingredients. 

For the main course, you can’t go wrong with Hunters Stew (Bigos).  It’s a big-flavored savory dish that can be made up several days ahead of time.  Have a bowl of baby boiled potatoes nearby that have been drenched in butter and sprinkled liberally with dill.

 Some of our friends like an ice-cold Polish vodka with their Hunters we’re always ready with our favorite Polish vodka (Luksusowa)   but there will be no pressure on those that choose a non-alcoholic drink. 

If the group is larger, you may want to have one or two additional dishes.  If you have access to good smoked kielbasa, buy two or three varieties, slice them into ½ inch rounds and serve with Cwikla, the traditional Beets With Horseradish garnish that takes less than 5 minutes to whip up.  YUM...the hotter the better!

Early in the evening, keep the beverages flowing.  But you also have a responsibility to keep track of how much your guests imbibe.  Closing down the bar early, and switching to decaf coffee, well before folks start going home, is the right thing to do.

Finally, about 11:30 pass out the cheesy hats and noise makers, throw on the TV at 11:55, watch the ball drop in Times Square, kiss your honey, and if you’re like us, start thinking about heading home before the crazy drunk drivers take over the roads.  Get your beauty sleep and prepare for the next day’s football games or holiday movies.  Keep the left over Hunters Stew for a quick meal that doesn’t require cooking, because it will be even better after the flavors have had a chance to marry.  So good! Wszystkiego najlepszego na Nowy Rok (all our best wishes for 2018)!Peter & Laura!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanksgiving - Polish/American Fusion

Witamy!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Most of us understand that Thanksgiving is not a classic Polish tradition.  But for the ten million Americans of Polish origin living in the U.S. that’s no reason why we can’t have a fusion of both cuisines – traditional American Holiday 
                                                         Image courtesy of ButterBall & Betty Crocker

fare with a Polish spin.  In fact, after a lifetime of traditional Thanksgiving feasts, adding a Polish twist is a pretty attractive and easy idea. 

The first way is to chop up a few tablespoons of fresh dill and combine with your favorite crouton or bread stuffing, replacing any other herbs that might compete with the dill. Consider that herbs such as sage, thyme, or marjoram just don’t do well next to fresh dill. 

By the way we recently learned that “stuffing” is what you place inside the turkey, but it’s called “dressing” if you bake it outside the turkey.  For many years Laura would stuff the turkey and then bake the left over stuffing in the oven.  But a few years ago she stopped stuffing the turkey after noticing that most of our guests preferred the “dressing.” It was less greasy and gloppy than the stuffing from inside the bird.  Makes sense to me!

So if you added a Polish spin to your stuffing (or dressing)  the rest of the “fusion” will come from the sides you choose. 

We love to do Vegetables Polonaise from Page 65 of our book “Polish Classic Recipes."  Cook the vegetables in salted water, drain, place on a pretty serving platter. Then garnish over the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs that have been sautéed in butter until dry.  So pretty, so colorful and with a new taste profile. 

Another way to enhance your turkey is whip up a small batch of Ćwikła (page 49) – the famed spicy garnish made with shredded beets, and prepared horseradish.  It’s easy:  five parts shredded beets (not the pickled kind), one part horseradish (more or less to taste) and a pinch of sugar.  That’s it.  Make it up a few days ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge.  Taste just before serving...Peter likes to add some horseradish but he likes it hotter. 

Another favorite that pairs well with turkey, is Polish Vegetable Salad  (Page 22)

4 cups cooked, diced potatoes
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and drained
2 cups frozen peas, cooked and drained
3 large dill pickles, diced (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
 Salt and pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Mix the potatoes with the vegetables, pickles, onions and dill.  Season with salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise with sour cream and mustard.  Combine dressing and vegetable mixture.  Chill thoroughly.  Arrange salad in a pretty bowl.  Sprinkle top with the chopped or sliced egg. A few slices of radish and sprigs of dill will add a nice touch of color.  

Our menu has evolved over the years as there are fewer guests coming to dinner and as we reduce the number of dishes and work for the cooks.  Everyone still gets their favorite but our feast is now Gluten Free and Low Carb.  Those are manageable challenges even with dessert.  The turkey dressing relies on croutons made from GF bread, and we’ve cut out potatoes and the pumpkin pie will be made from a GF crust.  

However you celebrate Thanksgiving in your family, it seems that there’s no real one traditional menu any more...culinary traditions vary from family to family as each cook’s version has evolved over the years.  Each family’s Thanksgiving table usually showcases one or more family favorites...some beloved by all and some favored by just one or two.  It’s all about compromise.   Peter is not a fan of green beans sauced with cream of mushroom soup, or lime green jello with cream cheese, but the jellied cranberry sauce, right out of the Ocean Spray can, is an absolute requirement.  Go figure!

Friends, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter so much what’s on the table, be it American, Polish, Italian or Chinese...a turkey, ham or hot dogs.  What matters is that every year we have a new opportunity to give thanks for our blessings.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to spend it with family or friends. 

May your Thanksgiving, be filled with, Peace, Love, and Harmony!
Laura and Peter