Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thanksgiving With Polish Flavors

Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us with lightning speed.  Laura has already started to plan our feast.  Most of our family are definitely traditionalists so the menu hasn’t changed much over the years, except for making sure that we have a favorite dish for each guest around our table.

(image courtesy of recipeler.com)
Laura’s sister will be with us this year and she’s requested their family’s legendary lime green jello salad with little cream cheese.

A big twist this year is that we’re going gluten and dairy-free in deference to newly developed allergies.  But that’s a subject for another post.

The turkey has already been procured and is resting in the freezer.  Laura’s brand of choice is the Butterball
since 40+ years of experience has established a comfort level that’s impossible to argue with.  Last week several days were spent pouring over the food ads from the newspaper searching for the best price.  I’m not sure why we put so much effort into trying to save ten cents a pound, but it is what it is.  Next year we’re planning to go out of our comfort zone with a fresh, organic, free range turkey from a near-by farm...we’ll let you know how that goes. 

Even though Thanksgiving is primarily a North American holiday, devotees of Polish cuisine can very easily give the menu a Polish twist.  The first way is to chop up a few tablespoons of fresh dill and combine with your favorite crouton or bread stuffing - replacing any other herbs that might compete with the dill.  Herbs such as sage, thyme, marjoram or parsley just don’t do well next to fresh dill.

A second way is to serve Vegetables “Polonaise “ style.  It’s very “Polish” and definitely makes your veggies more interesting.  

Vegetables Polonaise
1½ pounds of vegetables
½ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Salt & Pepper to taste
Lemon Zest (optional)
2 teaspoons of butter
2 tablespoons of toasted plain bread crumbs

Clean and prep the vegetables in your usual way.  Rinse them well.  Boil a small amount of water in your pot, add the salt and sugar.  Cook the vegetables for about 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the vegetable) until just under done (remember they will continue to cook and soften on the platter.  Drain well and place in a warmed serving dish. 
Melt the butter over a low heat and mix in the breadcrumbs.  Sautee for just a few minutes until golden brown and sprinkle over the vegetables.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Optionally, sprinkle a little lemon zest over the top for a little extra kick.

Another Polish twist could be to add a traditional Polish salad to the menu.  This Cabbage & Apple Salad goes very well with the turkey because it is colorful and bright tasting.

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.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving in your family, it seems that there’s no real one traditional menu any more...culinary traditions vary from family to family as each cook puts his or her spin on the menu.  Each family’s Thanksgiving table usually showcases one or more family favorites...some beloved by all and some favored by just one or two.   And that’s just great because it’s really all about being together whenever possible and giving thanks – whether you’re cooking a big meal, enjoying someone’s else’s hospitality, or just grabbing a quick bite at a fast food joint on your way to work.  Just pause a moment to give thanks.