Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hunter’s Stew (Bigos) - the King of Polish Comfort Food

Witamy i zyczymy wszystkiego najlepszego na nowy rok!

Welcome, and we wish you all the best in the new year.


We’re having a party to celebrate the New Year.  Lots of friends and neighbors will be invited to socialize and enjoy an early supper.  There was never any question that the dish of choice will be Hunter’s Stew, or better known in Polish circles as Bigos. 


This is classic and traditional comfort food at its very best. The base is sauerkraut to which we add kielbasa, bacon, pieces of pork and / or beef roast, dried mushroom for distinct flavor, some onion and tomato for background, and basically stew the heck out of it for several hours -  it’s even better if prepared the day before, giving all the flavors time to marry and hang out with each other for a while.  

The recipe below is based on a classic Warsaw version handed down from Peter’s Grandmother.  But truth be told there are a “gazillion” varieties of this hearty dish since every town and every village in Poland, and probably every cook has their own version.  As we travel to various Polish heritage festivals around the U.S. with our books and programs, we’ve noticed that the cooks at every church use some Babcia’s recipe.  Each is a bit different and each is always popular so that Bigos is often the first dish on the menu to sell out.  The beauty of Bigos is that the proportions don’t matter that much and the flavors will all come together, no matter how you change things up to make it your own.  

For our New Year’s day party, we’ll serve it with some boiled potatoes and black bread on the side.   For the adventurous guests, we’ll be "doing" shots of ice cold Polish vodka.



Peter likes Luksusowa potato vodka because it is very smooth and a great value for the price).

For the others, we’ll have a hearty red wine or Polish beer – all of which pair beautifully with 
Bigos.


For dessert, we still have too many platters of Christmas sweets which are still delicious.  We’ll put them out and pray they go fast. 



Serves 5-6
1/4 cup dried mushrooms
1/2 cup water
2 pounds sauerkraut
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced (optional) 
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
5 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 cup fully cooked Polish sausage, sliced and quartered
1 cup leftover meat (pork, beef, veal) chopped in 1 inch
         pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped bacon, pre-cooked to render fat


Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water until soft.  Transfer the mushrooms and their water to a small pot and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Drain the mushrooms but be sure to save their the liquid.  Chop the mushrooms into rough pieces. 

Wash the sauerkraut twice, thoroughly squeezing out the water each time.  In a large pot, combine sauerkraut, mushrooms and their reserved liquid.  Add the apple, tomatoes, peppercorns and bay leaf.  Add a little water or broth if needed, and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Be sure the liquid doesn’t all boil off. 

Pre-cook the bacon at least half way to render most of the bacon fat and rough-chop.  Add all the meat and bacon.  Cover and simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally.

This dish tastes much better when reheated the next day.  

Serve with potatoes, and crusty dark bread. It pairs well with either icy vodka, hearty red wine like a cabarnet sauvignon, or beer. 

Smacznego!




PS:  This is a great crockpot dish – cook on high for 2 hours then low for about 6 hours.  Reheat the next day until hot throughout. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving with a Polish Twist

Witamy!
Just a few days until Thanksgiving.  The stores are stocked up with all the traditional ingredients and there’s definitely a hint of excitement building in the air as the temperatures drop into fall and we’re starting to salivate over that turkey to come.   

Truth be told, Thanksgiving is not a classic Polish tradition.  But it is catching on and there is no reason why we can’t add a Polish twist to our own feast at home.  In fact, after 68 years of traditional Thanksgiving dinners, adding a Polish twist is a pretty attractive idea.  This Turkey recipe comes from Peter's Mom and is a variant on one from her book, The Art of Polish Cooking.  And if you really want to get out of the box, try it with a duck or goose.  And the two salads below are classic Polish salads that will pair very well with your bird – regardless of its DNA.  Smacznego!  


Roast Turkey with Sweet Stuffing

One turkey, 14 – 16 pounds
½ cup butter, melted
Your turkey’s liver, chopped
Salt

Stuffing
6 slices white bread 
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons brandy (optional) 
Your turkey’s liver, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs separated
½ cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons almonds, peeled and slivered
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon sugar
One dash Allspice
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 cup of breadcrumbs

Preheat your oven to 450°F.  Soak the bread in the milk and squeeze out the liquid well.   Add the brandy, butter, egg yolks raisins, almonds and spices.  Beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold into the stuffing mix a scoop at a time, alternating with the bread crumbs. Mix lightly. 


Image courtesy of Thermoworks
Stuff the neck and body cavities and close with skewers. Brush with butter.  Place the bird on a roasting rack in its pan, breast down, in the center of the oven.  Reduce the oven temp to 325°F and roast about 15 minutes per pound until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Baste skin frequently with the drippings.  Sprinkle skin with salt about half way. 
   Be sure to use a meat thermometer to gauge doneness (160 degrees) making sure the probe is set in the thigh and not in the stuffing.

There are a ton of recipes out there for roasting turkey -- your favorite method will be great, as long as you use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.  

Serve your Polish bird with Apple Cabbage Salad, Polish Vegetable Salad,  and roasted potatoes sprinkled with butter & dill.


Cabbage & Apple Salad 
1 small head red cabbage, shredded
2 apples, cored, peeled and shredded
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons sugar
Boil the shredded cabbage in salted boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain & cool.  Combine the lemon juice and sugar to make a dressing.  Toss the cabbage and apples with the dressing.  Cool well before serving.

Polish Vegetable Salad
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.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Polish Hamburgers "Kotlety Siekane"

Witamy:
I struggled with what to call these meat patties in English.  Google translate wasn't very helpful because they are not cutlets as we think of Pork or Lamb cutlets. As you can see from the picture, they aren't traditional burgers, they aren't baby meatloaves, and they aren't Caribbean meat patties. So I decided to just not worry about it, because anyone who grew up with classic Polish cuisine is probably familiar with these traditional "kotlety siekane."


The texture and flavor of these patties are vaguely reminiscent of a Polish meatloaf…only more dense.  What makes them truly Polish is that they are rolled in breadcrumbs, and browned before baking.  The recipe here is a classic version, but you can easily make it your own by adding into the meat mix some finely chopped, fresh mushrooms and dill (of course) or other herb.  But please be cautious with the herbs—too much, or more than one, could be overwhelming. After all, the meat is the star of this dish.

You can also freeze any leftover patties and serve them later for a quick and delicious cold lunch, sliced thinner on a very fresh, crisp hard roll with sliced tomato and a little mayo, and with a crunchy Polish dill pickle on the side.  

Yields 6 patties 

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 slices of dry white bread
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 ½ pounds meatloaf mix, OR: 
    1 pound ground beef
    ½ pound pork
1/3 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak the bread in the milk until all the milk is absorbed by the bread.  Rip the wet bread into very small pieces.  

Saute the chopped onion in the bacon drippings until golden.  Set aside to cool.  (Hint: we always keep a jar of bacon drippings in our fridge for just these kinds of uses.)

Combine the beef, pork, egg, bread, and onions in a large bowl.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Form the mixture into 6 thick, round patties about three inches across, and one inch thick.  Roll them in bread crumbs.  Brown the patties in the oil.  Place the patties in a casserole dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

In the interest of healthier eating, you could also make these with ground chicken or turkey, as shown in this image borrowed from   http://www.mojkulinarnypamietnik.pl/

Garnish with a sprig of dill, and serve with your favorite vegetables, sliced tomato, cabbage beet salad, or any other seasonal side dish.
Smacznego!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pork Cutlets - Classic Polish Style

Witamy!
Have you noticed how store-bought pork has changed over the last few years?  Center-cut boneless pork chops are lean and devoid of flavor compared to what we used to enjoy. 


That’s why the safe cooking temp was lowered by the USDA to 145 °F - a full 15 degrees less than before.  And now the USDA says it’s OK to eat your pork slightly pink.  So we no longer buy boneless chops, opting for bone-in, with a nice layer of fat around the edges (great for cooking - it gets cut off before eating).  

Pork has always been an important part of the Polish diet.  This classic cutlet is a tasty choice anytime and anywhere in Poland.  Quite similar to Viennese Schnitzel, the Polish version is often served with boiled cabbage, dill pickles or Brussel sprouts & carrots.


Heffron Farms
Serves 4
4 thin center cut pork chops
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
½ cup bread crumbs  
1 teaspoon marjoram finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil 

Use bone-in or boneless chops, either will work.  Trim most of the excess fat from the chops.  Pound the meat to tenderize until about 1/4 inch thick.  (Hint:  pound the chops under a plastic freezer bag to make the process easier and cleaner).  Cutlets may be cut into smaller pieces to better fit your skillet.  
Season generously with salt and pepper. 

Mix bread crumbs and marjoram. 
Dredge the cutlets in flour.  Dip in the beaten egg.  Roll in bread crumb mixture and press in to make bread crumbs stick to the cutlets. 


Preheat the oil in a large skillet and saute the cutlets until golden on both sides  until the pork is just barely pink - about 5 to 7 minutes per side. 



Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or dill.  Serve with your favorite vegetables, boiled baby potatoes, and slices of dill pickle.  

Smacznego!    




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Peach Tart - Polish Style

Witamy!
I had a huge juicy peach for breakfast this morning.  She was the size of my fist (it’s a big fist) with a perfect spherical shape, perfect blend of intense orange, yellow and red hues, and so much juice running down my chin and all over my hands.  She was born and raised on a near-by farm and came to me courtesy of our local farmers market.  She gave her life for 2 minutes of intense pleasure.  So noble and so worth it!  


But farm-raised peaches aren’t always perfect, and sometimes they don’t get consumed fast enough before the skin wrinkles and the flesh goes too ripe.  Here we have a perfect solution: our Polish style Peach Tart!  This recipe was intended for our acclaimed heritage cookbook, Polish Classic Desserts, but didn’t make the final cut purely due to space limitations.  We love it because it’s easy to make and a healthy way to end any meal or to just enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee during a mid-day break.  
Yields 15
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 ¾ cups flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons sour cream
8 peaches, small to medium freestones
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 12x15-inch cookie pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  The paper is to help lift the tart from the pan. 

Using a standing mixer or food processor, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the 2/3 cup sugar and baking powder and mix.  Add the egg and yolk and sour cream, and combine until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead the dough for a few minutes.  Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough in the prepared pan. 

Skin the peaches (see note).  Cut lengthwise and remove the pits.  Place the peach halves (flat side down) on the dough in even rows about an inch apart.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.





Before serving, sprinkle with the ½ cup confectioners’ sugar. Serve with whipped cream.  Best served the same day.

Note:  to skin peaches easily, cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach and drop them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds or so.  Immediately transfer from the hot water to a large bowl of ice water for about one minute.  Peel the skin off easily by starting at the tips of the “x” you cut earlier.  For best results, work with only a few at a time – if you have too many in the hot water, you won’t be able to remove them fast enough and they will start cooking through. 
Smacznego!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sour Milk - A True Polish Delicacy (For Real!) Zsiadłe Mleko

Really?  Sour Milk?  Oh yeah, for sure and for real!   Keep reading: 

One of my favorite childhood food memories was a summer delicacy called Zsiadłe Mleko or in English, Sour Milk.  Now before you scroll away or hit the delete key, just hang in there with me because there is nothing spoiled or sour about it and it is a genuine Polish delicacy.  I just devoured a bowl of it and it was an absolutely refreshing and tangy summer lunch.


Close your eyes and think slightly thin or loose yogurt…with a similar tang of buttermilk and the texture of a light pudding or flan.  Its served with buttered baby potatoes and fresh dill.   I promise that it really tastes fantastic and there’s nothing sour about it.   

There was a great story told by my Mom, who was active in the Polish resistance, that during World War II, there was a small band of Polish resistance fighters who found themselves in France behind enemy lines. They were lost and exhausted from dodging the enemy.  A French farmer took them in and let them hide in his cow barn. That farmer, seeing that they were also famished, apologized and said that all he had was some potatoes in the field, a few left-over sprigs of dill in the garden, and a bucket of soured milk which he was planning to feed to his pigs.  The Polish soldiers, hearing this, started laughing hysterically and pounced on the bucket of sour milk.  You see, where they grew up in Poland this was a delicacy known as “a dish for kings” -- a bowl of sour milk enjoyed best with a small plate of buttered potatoes and dill.  Amazing!


In Poland you can buy it commercially prepared but back in the day, this dish was made at home with unpasteurized milk.  But these days there is risk of germs or disease from consuming raw milk, so we strongly suggest that only pasteurized milk be used.

The Recipe:  First, the milk has to be “cultured” to become thick and tart.   Pour  a quart of whole milk into a glass or ceramic bowl (anything but metal).  Add ½ cup of sour cream OR 1 cup of cultured buttermilk.  Whisk or blend the mixture thoroughly.   Place the bowl into a warm spot (80 °F is great) and let it stand for 24 hours or until thick.  Do not move or disturb the bowl while the milk is setting up.  When it thickens to the consistency of flan or a light pudding, place the bowl into the fridge and cool for half a day or so.  To serve, spoon it into serving bowls and serve with young white potatoes that have been sprinkled with butter and fresh chopped dill.  

PS:  I had a bowl it for lunch – I started it two days ago with a quart of 2% milk and 3 tablespoons of sour cream.  The bowl just sat in our kitchen for a day and a half before it set up.  A little clear liquid separated in the bowl but I just poured that off.  I boiled a few baby white potatoes, sprinkled them with melted butter and dill.  My lunch was so refreshing on this hot day and just so delicious that I’ve got another bowl started.  

Smacznego!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Delicious Polish Summer Salads

Witamy!
Classic Polish cuisine embraces a huge variety of delicious, cool & crunchy summer salads that pair really well with just about any entree.  We love them especially with meats off the grill, whether your favorite kielbasa (Polish sausage) or burgers ‘n dogs, or just about anything you’ve pulled out for tonight’s dinner.  They’re quick and easy to prepare. 



And now that all the neighborhood farmers markets are going strong, their ingredients are so fresh and flavorful.  Can there be anything better that biting into a juicy tomato or crisp cucumber just picked that morning and prepared for tonight’s dinner? 





The second salad takes advantage of cabbage and dill pickles, both staples of classic Polish cuisine.  Using a food processor it will take just moments to prepare.  Its tang will be sure to delight the whole family.  Tip:  Imported Polish dill pickles are a bit sweeter than what’s usually found in American grocery stores. 

Tomato Cucumber Salad
Serves 6

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
¼ teaspoon salt, or a bit more to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar, or a bit more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill (dried is OK)
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Arrange the tomato and cucumber slices, alternating each, on an oblong serving platter.  Sprinkle with the salt, sugar and dill.  Top with a sprinkle of green onions and finally sprinkle everything lightly with the vinegar, just to give it all a slight tang.   Serve chilled or at room temp.


Cabbage and Dill Pickle Salad
Serves 6

2 cups, shredded cabbage
2 medium dill pickles, coarsely shredded
¼ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
½ teaspoon sugar (reduce by half if using imported Polish dill pickles)
2 tablespoons pickle juice
                                                2 tablespoons salad oil
                                                1 small tomato, sliced

Mix the cabbage and shredded pickles thoroughly.  Season with salt, sugar, pickle juice, and oil.  Arrange on a serving dish and garnish with the tomato slices.  Serve chilled. 

For three more delicious summer salads check out our blog post from 7-14-14.
Smacznego!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Fruit Soups - Polish Delight

Witamy!
Polish cuisine is comprised of a very wide variety of dishes and flavors.  They come from the influences 14th century French and Italian royalty, from the worldly wives of 18th and 19th century Polish gentry, and from the flavors left behind by the invading armies of neighboring lands.

Among the most original Polish dishes are the soups, such as Sour Soup, Dried Mushroom Soup, Dill Soup, or Pickle Soup.  And among the best of Polish soups are the chilled fruit soups.  Served cold on a hot summer day, they are refreshing, full of flavor, and always enjoyed by entire families, regardless of age. 

Fruit soups are not too sweet and Poles eat them as a first course for supper or as the main, or for a heartier course with noodles.  Sometimes they are served after the main course, as a healthier replacement for dessert. 


Chilled Strawberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1 quart buttermilk
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream

Using a blender, mix the strawberries and 1 cup of the buttermilk for a few seconds until smooth.  Add the sugar and remaining buttermilk and mix well.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with home-made buttery croutons.  

Chilled Blueberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart blueberries
1 slice white bread
4 cups water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
Croutons


Add the blueberries and bread to one cup of boiling water. Bring back to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix in a blender for just a few seconds until smooth.  Add remaining 3 cups of boiling water, spices and sugar, blend well until smooth.  Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  Just before serving, add sour cream to the soup tureen and mix.  Garnish each serving with croutons.


For two delicious varieties, substitute 1½ pounds of pitted Italian plums or 3 pints of pitted cherries, and increase the sour cream a bit to 2/3 cup. 
Smacznego!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Polish Pineapple Walnut Squares

Witamy!
Poles love to bake with fruit and they always have.  This particular recipe was an old favorite of Peter’s Mother’s and it calls for canned pineapple. But for us, today, this classic dessert is an attractive opportunity to take advantage of seasonal harvests and what is best in the grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

The canned pineapple is a time saver but it can easily be substituted for any fresh fruit that has been chopped, diced, and drained well.  Right now we’re seeing peaches, apples, nectarines, and apricots at our farmer's market.  And just yesterday we saw bags of beautiful cherries at Wegmans.  The key, is to drain the fruit well, otherwise the bottom layer of dough will get soggy.

Yields 32 squares
Dough
3 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup butter
3 egg yolks
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix the flour with the baking powder and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix the egg yolks with the milk and add to the flour. Knead the dough until all ingredients are incorporated well and the dough forms a ball.  

Filling
5 cups crushed pineapple, drained
6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
In a medium saucepan, mix the pineapple, cornstarch and sugar and cook on low heat until the mixture thickens.  Set aside to cool.
Line a 10x15-inch baking pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Roll out the pieces of dough into rectangles, each large enough to fit in the prepared baking pan.  Place one rectangle in the baking pan.  Spread the pineapple mixture over the dough.




Cut the second dough rectangle into strips and arrange on top in a lattice design.  

Topping
1 egg white, beaten
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Brush the top dough layer with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with the walnuts.  Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown on top.  Remove from the oven.  Cool on a baking rack.  Cut into squares and serve.  
Smacznego!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring Baba (Light)

Witamy!
Polish Baba’s, or Babka’s, are brioche-like cakes that are very popular on special holidays such as Easter or Christmas.  They get their name after the long flowing skirts worn by the Babcia's or Grandmothers who baked these cakes many generations ago.  Traditionally they are not filled, and often glazed with a light icing flavored with vanilla or rum, and often decorated with nut slices or candied fruit.



There are so many varieties of Baba’s in classic Polish baking…this is one of the more traditional versions which we like a lot because it is so flexible for changing up the flavorings.  It is both fluffy and somewhat fragile, crumbling at a heavy touch.  But it is surprisingly moist, and enhanced with the subtle aroma of vanilla and the brightness of lemon.  

This Baba is perfect for an afternoon snack since it is not too sweet, light yet very flavorful - perfect with a cup of hot tea or coffee. 

Serves 8-10
1/3 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium lemon – zested and juiced
cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder


Cream the butter with the sugar using a standing mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating at high speed.  Add the yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, and beat 3 more minutes.  Add the flour, baking powder and lemon zest, and beat 5 more minutes.

Grease a 9-inch bundt or tube pan well or spray the pan with a commercial baking spray.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter so the sides are higher than the center.

Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Test by inserting a toothpick into the center…the cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.


Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.  Place a plate over the top of the pan and invert the pan onto the plate; then lift off the pan.  Dust the baba with confectioners’ sugar before serving.  Will be even more delicious with strawberries or other berries on the side. 
Smacznego!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kicking Up Easter - Polish Style

Wesołych Świąt (Happy Easter)! 

Our Easter menu has remained pretty much the same through four generations and over 65 years since the Zeranski’s emigrated from Europe.  For 2015 it will be again be a blend of Polish traditional delicacies with some American favorites – all intended to please our family’s diverse palates.




The Polish sweets, such as this Gypsy Mazurka


are in our Polish Classic Desserts, and the savory classics are all in our Polish Classic Recipes book,  both of which make great Easter gifts.



The cornerstones of the menu are always platters of traditional sliced ham





partnered with at least two or three aromatic varieties of kielbasa and hard boiled eggs.

Next are bowls of steaming aromatic cheesy scalloped potatoes and a chilled Polish vegetable salad. 


On the side we sip traditional peppery Barszcz (clear beet broth).  The combination of sweet and peppery flavors balance so well with the rustic garlicky kielbasa and more delicate vegetables. 


For dessert Laura always has such a hard time choosing between the traditional Babas, Cheesecakes or Mazurkas.  Everyone’s mouths are already watering intensely with the anticipation of this meal.


As we start to make our plans for this wonderfully traditional Easter meal, we quickly understand that a couple of sauces to garnish the cold sliced meats, are the true difference-makers that elevate the feast into something truly special.  The added layers of flavor just intensify the pleasure of each bite.
These are classics and easy to prepare ahead of time.  A dollop or two on your plate, right next to the ham and kielbasa, will kick the flavors up and make the meal truly memorable…until next year.  

Mustard Sauce   (Makes 1 cup)
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 cup sour cream
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients well. Chill well.   

Green Onion Sauce   (Makes 1 ½ cups)
1 cup sour cream
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 tablespoon chopped green onions
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients.  Chill well.  

Beets & Horseradish   (Makes 2 cups)
2 14.5 ounce cans beets (not pickled), drained & rough-chopped 
5 ounces prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients, place in an airtight sealed container.  Best after 24 hours.  We often add an ounce or two of more horseradish just before serving for an even stronger kick.   

Dill Pickle Sauce   (Warm)   Makes 3 cups
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons instant flour
½ cup beef stock or bouillon (hot)
3 large dill pickles, shredded
½ cup dill pickle liquid from the jar
½ cup sour cream
Salt to taste


Mix butter with flour over low heat. Gradually stir in the hot bouillon and then the pickle juice. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Add the pickles and sour cream.  Heat, but do not boil. Add salt to taste.  Serve warm. 

Smacznego!


Monday, February 23, 2015

EZ Dumplings in Wild Mushroom Sauce - Polish Style

Witamy!
Through centuries of wars and tough economic time, Poles learned to never waste food. Even in upscale homes, throwing out bread was always considered a sin. There were too many hungry people in the streets.  According to one superstition, any children who dropped a roll or slice of bread on the floor, were asked to immediately pick it up and kiss it, as a sign of respect that was thought to guard against future hunger.  True or not, stale bread or rolls are easily transformed into tasty dumplings.  
Pour a little Wild Mushroom Sauce over top and serve with a pot roast or stew, for a lovely, filling, cold-weather meal. 


Dumplings (Serves 6)

4 slices white bread, cut into small cubes
4 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped finely or shredded
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
¾ cup flour
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the bread cubes in 400 degree oven for about ten minutes. Fry the bacon with onion until golden.  Add bread cubes and dill. Combine with eggs, milk, flour, salt and a dash of pepper.  Mix well.

Wet your hands and form the bread mix into small round dumplings about the size of a golf ball.  Drop into large pot of boiling water and cook until they float.  Test one for doneness in the center.  Drain well.  Top with mushroom sauce and serve with your favorite meat dish. 


Wild Mushroom Sauce  (Yields 2½ cups)

1/3 cup dried wild mushrooms
1 2/3 cups fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, shredded
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups light cream or Half & Half
1 tablespoon chopped dill  (fresh is best)
Salt and white pepper to taste

Reconstitute dried mushrooms by covering with boiling water – let soak for about 30 minutes. Drain well but reserve the liquid. Chop finely.

Melt the butter in a hot pan and add the fresh and reconstituted mushrooms, and onions and saute until golden and very aromatic.  Sprinkle with flour and stir in well for a few more minutes, taking care to not let the flour burn past a golden brown.  Gradually stir in the cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Taste…if you want more mushroom flavor, stir in some of the dried mushroom “liquor” a tablespoon at a time. Keep tasting.  While stirring constantly, let the sauce simmer and reduce a bit until it reaches the desired “saucy” consistency and intensity of flavor.

Pour over the dumplings and garnish with fresh chopped dill.

 Smacznego!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Polish Cook Books 101 - Picking Your Next Favorite!

We have a lot of cook books in our house, including all of the better Polish recipe books sold on Amazon from the past 25 years.  Laura is a dedicated collector and has never met a cookbook she doesn’t like!  Well, that’s not quite true…she has her favorites and also her share of duds, seldom to be opened a second time.  The favorites can be spotted right away by the dog eared pages and the food stains all over the recipes.  You’ve got a few like that, right?


If you’re not a collector, or maybe you don’t cook so much, or you can’t read your Mom’s notes on those old index cards, or your “go-to” Polish cook book is 50 years old and falling apart, then you should read on…because this post is all about how Laura’s picks a great cook book – one to which she’ll return over and over again.   

1 – No E-Books – while we love our “his and hers” Kindles, that e-books are too hard to read (and keep clean) in the kitchen! And if it falls in a sink full of dirty dishwater, your goose is cooked – literally!  


2 – Pick books with great photos – lots of them!  Not only does that make the book more fun, but the right images will show you how the dish is supposed to look when finished.


3 – Pick books that are “reader-friendly” – is the type size easy to read?  Are the ingredients and measurements organized in some intuitive way?  Are the directions clear and understandable?  Does the author include hints, tips or notes that will help you execute the dish properly? 

4 – Pick books with a variety of organized recipes - your book should cover several courses of a basic meal and maybe several special meals, i.e. holidays.  There are thousands of books that only deal with a very small slice of food, i.e. only Sunday brunch, or only vegetables, or only pork, or only wine-enhanced recipes…so be sure the niche is not too narrow.  It’s great to explore in depth a narrow slice of a meal, or a small perspective, but those books always have to be supplemented with other books – just to round out the meal.   


5 – Pick books that match your skill level - does the book start with a lesson in hard boiling eggs for the novice cook, or do the recipes require 30 hard-to-find ingredients, 30 prep steps or 30 days to execute?  Those may be interesting to read but not very practical.  Most classic dishes of any culture can usually be prepared in several styles, ranging from the ridiculously complex approach that a professional chef might take, or a simpler process that is more appropriate for most of us.  And oh yeah…try to make sure the recipes have been tested…too many recipes are just “invented” and end up in the compost bin because they just don’t work. 

Our two classic books meet all these criteria, plus you can get them personally dedicated and signed by the authors.  That makes them even more appreciated as a gift or for your special “go-to” collection. And if you see us at one of this summer’s heritage festivals, be sure to bring your phone and we’ll do a selfie. 



There are more than 40 Polish books available on line, but if you go past the cover page, you’ll discover that many were written in Europe and translated into English – which is risky for our modern kitchens.  Or they were written a quarter century ago.  Or they were written with the authors’  “creative spin” - so they no longer look, smell or taste like what our Moms or Babcias made.   Just to be clear, our books were specifically written for anyone who wants to preserve our culinary heritage and enjoy the dishes the way they were made by countless generations that came before us.   


So if you’re looking to round out your collection with two winners, or if you have a gifting occasion coming up, just click on the "Add to the Cart" button and in the PayPal Instructions box, be sure to tell us to whom we can dedicate your books.  Smacznego!