Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Good stuff" kielbasa from Kielbasa Factory, Inc., Rockville MD.

Witamy!  These days, one can find Polish kielbasa in almost every grocery store, butcher and meat seller in the neighborhood.  BUT, there’s mass produced kielbasa and there’s “the good stuff” – and a huge difference between the two.  We’ve bought the grocery store links…used it in Bigos (Hunters Stew) or grilled it over charcoal,  and it’s been OK – but just OK.  Given a choice, we’ll go with “the good stuff” every time.

In most cases the really “good stuff,” with authentic flavors and textures just like you’d get in Poland, is found in Polish or Eastern European delis that buy their links from sausage makers that use authentic Polish recipes and sausage-making processes.  Kielbasa Factory, Inc., in Rockville MD is a clear winner for buying kielbasa (and anything else Polish for that matter).

Kielbasa Factory is a deli featuring all kinds of foods and preparations imported from Poland or prepared by Poles within driving distance to the cases, shelves and coolers.  From chocolates to soups, from pickles to pierogi, from dried mushrooms to beer, from cookies to cakes, and everything that’s Polish in between.  Plus, there are shelves heavy with Polish pottery, glassware, books, videos, greeting cards, magazines, tee shirts, and even a baby’s bib  (which we did get recently for our granddaughter that reads” Polish Princess”), and even my Mom’s iconic The Art of Polish Cooking, which is still selling well after 45 years.

But this is about Kielbasa.  I didn’t count, but I’ll bet they carry at least 25 different varieties.  Some are more lean than others.  Some have more garlic than others.  Some have more herbs than others.  Some are thin and some are fat.  In fact, there’s even one that is heart-shaped.

All their flavors are amazing and the aromas circulating through the store are intoxicating. Then suddenly your eyes spot the menu board that lists a few kielbasa sandwiches prepared fresh on the spot and your mouth starts to water and you start smacking your lips as you watch your sandwich being heated on the grill.  That’s “good stuff.”

But here’s the big deal (and it is truly a big deal), anyone can buy a pound of shrink-wrapped Polish Kielbasa at big grocery store. They even come in Lite or Turkey versions (OMG).  But these links are produced in huge quantities.  They have no personality, they are full of preservatives, and nowhere near as flavorful as “the good stuff.”

So find a Polish deli, go try a few varieties of authentic kielbasa – most delis will gladly share samples - and treat yourself to “the good stuff.”  You deserve it.

Kielbasa Factory, Inc.
1073 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great-Great Grandma's Milk Soup

Witamy! This post was written by Laura’s sister Priscilla:

I was inspired by all the wonderful Polish dishes our Mom and I enjoyed on our recent visit to Laura and Peter’s home. So a couple of days ago, I decided to try and make one of my childhood favorites.  

The temperatures here in northern Florida had dipped down into the twenties and after working in a cold office all morning, I was chilled to the bone. I needed soup! I was home for lunch and when I opened the refrigerator and saw the milk jug, I knew instantly what kind of soup I was going to make that evening - Milk Soup!

Milk Soup had been a favorite of my other sister’s (Helen) and mine. We would beg my grandma to make it, even on the hottest of summer days. Her mother was Polish and we were always told it was a Polish soup recipe passed down from her mother’s mother, which would make her our great, great grandmother (phew!).

On my way home for dinner, I picked up some whole milk and after arriving pulled out grandma's recipe. It was my first time making this soup on my own. I could have done what I usually do, which is to ask Mom to make it, but since I now do all the cooking in our house, it was time I learned how to make this family favorite by myself.

Grandma's recipe was easy to follow and within a half hour, Mom and I were sitting down to a delicious, hot bowl of goodness that transported us back to times when we shared bowls of Milk Soup with grandma and great grandma.  I must have done OK because it tasted just like I remembered. Even the Ribbles (small bits of dough dribbled into the hot soup) came out right and were delicious.  As Mom said the blessing we gave thanks not only for the meal, but also for the three special women, my great great grandmother, great grandmother, and grandmother, who passed this Polish delicacy from generation to generation and gave us our first memories of enjoying a classic dish that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

~Happy Cooking! Priscilla

Milk Soup

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pour the milk into a large pot, mix in the sugar and salt, and slowly bring to a low boil (do not use high heat as the milk will scorch and burn).

1 egg
2 tablespoons water
2 cups flour
While the milk mix is heating, combine these ingredients together in a bowl, using your hands to break the mix into small particles. Be sure all of the flour is well integrated so the milk doesn’t get too starchy.

As soon as the milk has boiled, dribble the ribbles into the hot liquid by taking small amounts of the mixture in your fingertips and gently dropping them into the milk, the same way you would sprinkle sugar over the top of something.

As soon as the milk with ribbles has boiled again, take off the heat and serve.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I love you...will you marrow me?

Witamy!  I have this childhood memory of standing in the kitchen, at this huge, white, chipped stove that was taller than I and being handed a little square of fresh rye bread on which rested this shiny brown dollop of lightly salted beef marrow.  It was so amazingly delicious, there was never enough and we only got it once in a great while.  I know it’s not very good for you, but once in a while we can indulge ourselves, can’t we?  Didn’t Julia Child say something about butter not being bad for you as long as it is taken in moderation?

For my taste, hot fresh marrow is right up there with fois gras, truffles and Russian caviar - all very expensive luxuries but absolutely worthwhile, once in a while. Only marrow is not expensive.  This morning I asked the butcher in our local grocery store for some marrow bones, veal or beef shanks are the best.  I got two pounds of bones, cut into one-to-two inch chunks, for three bucks.  Threw them in a roasting pan and popped them in the 400-degree oven for half an hour.  They came out as soon as the fat of the marrow was starting melting away.  You don’t get much marrow out of two pounds of bones (maybe a couple of ounces), but then you don’t need much.

When I scooped it out, frankly it looked a little gross – shiny, mottled brown, fatty, but with a delicious and pronounced aroma of beef. I spread some on a piece of crusty, 9-grain bread…hit it with a little salt…closed my eyes…inhaled the aroma like a fine wine, and took a bite.  Wow!  Rich, smooth, beefy -- I don’t have the words to do it justice but its way up there on my top ten list.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pierogi passion!

Witamy! What is it about pierogi that inspires so many smiles and even passion?  Is it about remembering how they tasted when your Grandma made them? Or is it about today and the amazing combination of tastes and textures when sitting down to a plate of this wonder food, made by a real, honest-to-goodness pierogi expert? For my friend Kim, who just made four dozen for her son’s new in-laws for Christmas, it’s clearly a labor of love because her son says Kim’s pierogi are so good she should sell them! For our son-in-law, BJ - who is not Polish - it’s all about the tastes and flavors he experienced when we all did a “roots trip” to Poland a couple of years ago.  BJ says we should start a pierogi food-cart on the streets of Washington DC  (food carts are the rage these days).

Laura’s Mom and sister, Priscilla are visiting this weekend, from Florida, for our granddaughter Lucy’s baptism.  Mom asked for potato pancakes (Latkes, which are in the new book), and Priscilla asked for pierogi, even though she has never ever had even one (how tragic to be a pierogi-virgin!)  So Laura made about three dozen earlier this week.  We cooked them half way and froze them on trays wrapped in plastic wrap.  Today everyone helped make the garnishes (lightly fried onion, sour cream, bacon crumble).  There were two fillings this time - potato/cheese/onion and sauerkraut/mushroom. Everybody gave them five stars!

For desert we were going to make “Lazy Pierogi” which are really easy to make: prepare the log of dough, cut into squares, boil, drain, pour on the melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  They’re surely not the healthiest desert we’ve ever made, but very good for the soul.  Once in a while, in moderation, is OK, says my cardiologist!

But we were full and too tired to make anything else. Besides there are still a few un-Polish cupcakes left from the baptism party. Next time!

All these recipes (but not the cupcakes) will be in our book, to be released this March.  Here is a tasty alternative to pierogi from my mother's cookbook, The Art of Polish Cooking:

Cheese Dumplings
Kluski z Sera
Serves 4

1 lb. farmer cheese, ground or 1 lb. dry cottage cheese ground and 1 tbsp. butter
4 boiled potatoes, ground
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. butter

Combine the cheese with potatoes and egg yolks. Beat the egg whites till stiff and add to the cheese mixture alternately with the flour. Mix slightly.

Drop the dough from a spoon in small portions into a kettle with boiling salted water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a warmed serving platter. Dot with butter and serve with salad.

© Copyright 1968 Alina Zeranska. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission from LoraPeet Ventures LLC

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm a mushroom snob!

Witamy! The more experienced we get with food, the more we appreciate mushrooms. I had a can of Cream of Mushroom soup for lunch today…smooth, silky, and full of rich flavor. As good as it was, home-made soup is so much better – healthier, more flavorful and can be almost as easy as opening a can!

Mushrooms are quite a key ingredient in many Polish dishes and often the recipes call for dried mushrooms.  But in our experience, unless they come from the forests of Central or Eastern Europe, the flavors just don’t quite measure up in terms of intensity and character.  When you open the package, the aroma must hit your nose hard!  When you reconstitute them in hot water, the mushroom essence in the left–over liquid must fill the whole kitchen and must always, always be used in the recipe.   (Anyone care to comment?)

We recently bought a tall jar of mixed, dried mushrooms at one of the big box stores; they looked inviting and were comparatively cheap but they just didn’t have the intensity as forest mushrooms from Poland or Germany or Russia.  It must be the dirt!  We have also purchased other brands of imported dried mushrooms from other parts of the world and they were not as intense either.  They were probably all farmed.

So I guess I’m a “Mushroom Snob,” but this week we’ll be at the nearby Russian deli (they also carry some Polish products) to purchase bags of forest mushrooms imported from Poland. They are certainly more expensive but using them in your dishes is oh, so worth it!

Care-Free Mushroom Soup

1.    Lightly rinse 3 ounces of dried forest mushrooms, chop them into rough pieces, and drop them into a pot with two quarts of warm water; cover the pot.
2.    Simmer the mushrooms for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft.
3.    Chop up 2 to 3 three cups of vegetables into 1 to 1.5 inch chunks – whatever you have handy will work: carrots, onion, celery, leek, parsely root, rutabaga, its all good!
4.    Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns, and salt to taste. Continue to cook the mix for another 30 minutes or until the hardest vegetables are quite soft.
5.    Strain out all the vegetables, and if you wish, add a little lemon juice to kick up the flavor…but go slow and keep tasting to avoid killing the mushroom flavors.
6.    Garnish with slices of cooked mushroom caps; serve with crusty rye bread.

P.S. If you wish to make the soup a little heartier, just add some barley to the mushroom broth at the same time you add the raw vegetables.