Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chicken Left-Overs - Polish Style


In our house we seem to be eating more chicken these days – it’s lean, healthy and can be delicious.  But since most days there are only two of us, when we roast a whole bird at home, or bring a rotisserie chicken home from the grocery store, we always seem to have a half of the bird left on the cutting board. 

Peter is not a fan of just reheating the odds and ends so he’s always after Laura to find a new way of re-purposing the left over chicken meat to create an entirely new dish.  If we only have a few ounces of chicken left, we’ll just put the remains in the freezer and bring it back when we have two or three cups of chicken meat accumulated.  The goal is to change the texture and add new flavors.  It pays to have a meat grinder even if you only use it a few times a year.  Or, if you have a standing mixer, you can get a meat-grinding attachment. It’s a very versatile kitchen tool.
Here are two ways of preparing left over chicken – Polish style.  Both are easy and delicious.  Smacznego!

Chicken Meat Balls – Polish Style
Serves 6

3 to 4 cups twice-ground, cooked chicken meat
3 slices white bread, soaked in milk and squeezed
1½ tablespoons butter, melted
2 egg yolks
½ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons oil
Parsley sprigs
1 lemon, sliced
Salt & pepper

Mix the ground cooked chicken meat with the bread.  Season lightly.  Add the butter and egg yolks and mix well.  Form the meat into small golf-ball sized balls and roll in the breadcrumbs.  Heat the oil.  Sautee the balls on all sides until heated through.  Arrange on a warmed dish. Garnish with parsely and lemon slices.  Serve with french fries, a dipping sauce, or fresh vegetables. 

Chicken & Bacon Stir-Fry
Serves 3

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken
½ cup chicken broth or stock
2 or 3 stalks green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1½ to 2 cups cooked rice (to taste)

                                    2 tblspn chopped dill, divided
                                    Salt & pepper

Fry the bacon until just crisp.  Drizzle the broth over the chicken meat to moisten well.  Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok.  Mix the chicken, half the dill, bacon, green onion and rice in the pan.  Note:  add the rice slowly until your desired proportion is reached.  Stir fry until hot.  Season to taste.  Sprinkle remaining dill over the top.  Serve with your favorite veggies. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Polish Mushroom-Potato Soup

Witamy!  No amount of wishful thinking will bring a warming spring back to North America any sooner than Mother Nature will allow.  So deal with it and enjoy the opportunity to make fresh hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soups and stews for your table.  But first a note about your pantry...if you regularly prepare Polish recipes, your pantry should always be stocked with dried mushrooms and fresh dill.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of new Asian and Latino grocery stores.  These are great sources for fresh herbs and much cheaper than traditional grocery stores.  In fact some import Eastern European foods such as Polish chocolate, cookies, canned pate, pickles, and more.  We have several in Northern Virginia and regularly buy fresh dill for 99 cents a big bunch, and 3 or 4 bunches of green onions for a buck, cilantro for 50 cents a bunch, fresh beets at half the price of our local Safeway, and the list goes on and on.  These fresh ingredients will add a lot of authentic flavors to your cooking.  

Dried mushrooms are another story.  They are an important part of Polish cuisine because the flavor profile, when hydrated, is more intense than fresh mushrooms.  This soup recipe uses just a few dried mushrooms to kick up the taste.  To our palates, the absolutely best ones are “wild forest mushrooms” from Poland (or any other Eastern European country).  We used to get them on EBay from a farm in Bulgaria.  They were wonderful but capitalism has found its way there and the prices are now stratospheric.  But, very good dried mushrooms come out of mushroom farms in Iowa or Oregon, and are available on line.  Our last batch came from France and was purchased on Amazon for about $30 for a whole pound which fills a gallon container.
Since it is still cold outside, here is a soup that is sure to please, quite easy to prepare and not time consuming.  It’s delicious and very representative of traditional Polish comfort food. 

Serves 10
4 dried mushrooms (optional)
1½ pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh, dark mushrooms, i.e. cremini, washed well and sliced
7 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cold water
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

If using dried mushrooms, wash them thoroughly to remove all sand.  Hydrate the dried mushrooms in a cup of very hot water for about one hour.  Keep the liquid for the soup pot. 

Bring broth and mushroom liquid to a low boil.  Cook the potatoes and all the mushrooms in the broth for 30 minutes or until just soft.  Mix the flour and cold water and slowly add to the broth.  Bring back to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.  Add in the sour cream, parsley and dill.  Season to taste.  HINT:  Go easy on the salt and keep tasting because the dill brings a natural saltiness to the soup.  
Serve IN a dark bread bowl,  or with fresh dark crusty bread and sweet butter.