Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lenten Filet of Sole - Polish Style

It is Lent and time for meatless meals. Polish cuisine is not just about kielbasa, pierogi, or stuffed cabbage rolls.  Polish comfort food is loved around the whole world, but in fact there are a great many traditional dishes in our repertoire that are healthier, lighter, and just as delicious.  For this year’s Lenten season, we’re sharing with you a delicious fish preparation from Peter's Mom, first posted a few years ago, that will please the whole family and especially the healthy eaters around the table.   

This recipe features filet of sole which is pretty easy to find in better grocery stores.  But it can also be substituted with any lighter and thinner white fish such as flounder or tilapia.  We like Basa quite a bit, which is actually a Vietnamese cousin to the catfish but often sold in thinner filets.  

In Virginia we see Basa, both fresh and frozen, in Asian grocery stores so we like to make a special trip and buy a larger quantity for the freezer.  It’s one of our favorite fish and much cheaper than sole or flounder. 

Filet of Sole with vegetables - Polish Style
Serves 6
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
¼ small head of savoy cabbage, chopped
1 leek, finely sliced  (just the white part)
1 large carrot, finely sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 parsley root, finely sliced
3 tablespoons water
2 pounds filet of sole, or any white fish filets
Salt to taste

1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 bouillon cubes, vegetable or chicken
1 cup hot water
Salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sour cream

In a large skillet, heat the butter, add the vegetables and the 3 tablespoons of water,  sauté over medium heat until soft - about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the fish lightly with salt.  Place on top of the vegetables and simmer until the fish is just cooked through – about 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness.  To test for doneness, pierce the filet lightly with a fork, turn it a bit to see if the fish is no longer opaque in color.  When done the fish should be somewhat flaky under your fork. 

To prepare the sauce,  heat the butter, add the flour, sauté while mixing until well blended.  Dissolve the bouillon cubes in hot water and add the broth to the pan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir until slightly thickened.

To serve, transfer the fish filets gently to a warm serving platter.  Add the sauce  to the vegetables. Remove from heat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Finish by stirring in the sour cream.  Pour over the fish.  
Serve with Polish dumplings, rice or egg noodles
                                                image courtesy of w.spodnicy.pl

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 Stew...so 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!