Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Pinch of This and a Pinch of That!

Witamy!   Our readers really appreciate  that Laura tested and retested each recipe to translate Babcia’s comments about adding “a pinch of this and a pinch of that” into specific measuring-spoon directions.  That’s huge for someone who is just learning to cook, or doesn’t yet have enough confidence to put their own twist on something.  And of course it’s huge when doing pastry  because a big pinch or a little pinch of an ingredient like baking powder can mean the difference between a winning dessert and a total bomb. 

But the fact is that many of the world’s great comfort foods do not require specific measurements at all and thus are impossible to screw up.  Examples exist in every regional cuisine:  Louisiana gumbo, Polish Hunters Stew (Bigos), French bouillabaisse, San Francisco-style cioppino, Chinese stir fry, and so on.  These are all dishes that were born from a need to create hearty meals from whatever ingredients were available from the land.  Over time they were popularized by creative chefs into “haute cuisine” for which restaurants now charge a small fortune.  But their humble beginnings always remind us of their basic simplicity, and that anyone can make them taste out of this world, with very little precision and without detailed directions. 

Sausage and Cabbage (pg. 57 in our book) is a perfect example.  While the printed recipe in our book has been perfected with exact measurements and proportions, it can be a tossed together for a wonderful supper by just mixing the basic ingredients, without stressing over the amounts.  So let’s you and I make this  dish the old fashioned way – a bit of this and a glob of that!   In this recipe and others like it, more or less onion is up to you...more or less kielbasa is up to you...more or less potato is totally up to you.  Success is ONLY about how the dish tastes to you – just chop everything into bite-size chunks and add the flavorings - but very cautiously.  And keep tasting because you can always add more salt, but you can't take it back out.

So let’s go for it! 
Your Ingredients:
·       1 head of green cabbage, (a small head , 6 to 8“ diameter, will yield about four big portions)
·       1 ring of smoked (ready to eat) kielbasa, about 1½ lb. (use the best you can find)
·       1 to 2 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
·       4 or 5 five small, new potatoes  (1 old big one will work but the new potatoes are more tender)
·       1 small to medium onion
·       1½ cups of chicken broth
·       1 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
·       1 teaspoon cornstarch
·       A pinch of sugar  (less than ¼ teaspoon)
·       Salt & pepper to taste
·       ½ tablespoon lemon Juice

The Prep:
1.     Get all the ingredients out, handy on the counter
2.     Find a large pot (5 or 6 quarts) with lid
3.     Rough-chop the cabbage and slice up the onion;
4.     Cut potatoes into bite-size cubes,
5.     Slice the sausage into bite-size pieces - ½ inch max.

The Cooking Steps:
1.     Heat the pot on medium, melt the butter but don’t let it go brown;
2.     Add the onions and sausage and saute until the onions just start to turn golden;
3.     Add a 1/4 cup or so of broth, stir in the cabbage and cook until it becomes limp;
4.     Add the potatoes and a cup of chicken broth;  cover and cook until potatoes are just soft;  (about 5 min or so, depending on the size of your chunks)
5.     Put the rest of the broth in a bowl, stir in the cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice, mix well and add to the pot.
6.     Bring the mix back to a low boil uncovered until the liquid thickens a bit  (maybe 5 min);
7.     Add half of the salt, pepper and caraway seeds and stir well.  Let it cook for a couple more minutes and TASTE.  Add more salt, pepper and caraway seeds if desired.
8.     And that’s all there is to it - IT’S DONE!

Serve with hunks of fresh rye bread and ice cold vodka shots, your favorite beer or a hearty red wine.  Smacznego!

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