Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanksgiving - Polish/American Fusion

Witamy!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Most of us understand that Thanksgiving is not a classic Polish tradition.  But for the ten million Americans of Polish origin living in the U.S. that’s no reason why we can’t have a fusion of both cuisines – traditional American Holiday 
                                                         Image courtesy of ButterBall & Betty Crocker

fare with a Polish spin.  In fact, after a lifetime of traditional Thanksgiving feasts, adding a Polish twist is a pretty attractive and easy idea. 

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. Consider that herbs such as sage, thyme, or marjoram just don’t do well next to fresh dill. 

By the way we recently learned that “stuffing” is what you place inside the turkey, but it’s called “dressing” if you bake it outside the turkey.  For many years Laura would stuff the turkey and then bake the left over stuffing in the oven.  But a few years ago she stopped stuffing the turkey after noticing that most of our guests preferred the “dressing.” It was less greasy and gloppy than the stuffing from inside the bird.  Makes sense to me!

So if you added a Polish spin to your stuffing (or dressing)  the rest of the “fusion” will come from the sides you choose. 

We love to do Vegetables Polonaise from Page 65 of our book “Polish Classic Recipes."  Cook the vegetables in salted water, drain, place on a pretty serving platter. Then garnish over the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs that have been sautéed in butter until dry.  So pretty, so colorful and with a new taste profile. 

Another way to enhance your turkey is whip up a small batch of Ćwikła (page 49) – the famed spicy garnish made with shredded beets, and prepared horseradish.  It’s easy:  five parts shredded beets (not the pickled kind), one part horseradish (more or less to taste) and a pinch of sugar.  That’s it.  Make it up a few days ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge.  Taste just before serving...Peter likes to add some horseradish but he likes it hotter. 

Another favorite that pairs well with turkey, is Polish Vegetable Salad  (Page 22)

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.  

Our menu has evolved over the years as there are fewer guests coming to dinner and as we reduce the number of dishes and work for the cooks.  Everyone still gets their favorite but our feast is now Gluten Free and Low Carb.  Those are manageable challenges even with dessert.  The turkey dressing relies on croutons made from GF bread, and we’ve cut out potatoes and the pumpkin pie will be made from a GF crust.  

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’s version has evolved over the years.  Each family’s Thanksgiving table usually showcases one or more family favorites...some beloved by all and some favored by just one or two.  It’s all about compromise.   Peter is not a fan of green beans sauced with cream of mushroom soup, or lime green jello with cream cheese, but the jellied cranberry sauce, right out of the Ocean Spray can, is an absolute requirement.  Go figure!

Friends, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter so much what’s on the table, be it American, Polish, Italian or Chinese...a turkey, ham or hot dogs.  What matters is that every year we have a new opportunity to give thanks for our blessings.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to spend it with family or friends. 

May your Thanksgiving, be filled with, Peace, Love, and Harmony!
Laura and Peter