Let's cook the Polish way

My mother was a fantastic cook.
But I can't remember, for the life of me, her ever reaching for "The Culinary Arts Institute Polish Cookbook: Traditional recipes tested for today's kitchen."
It was published in 1976, when I was a self-absorbed 13-year-old.

"How to prepare a Polish feast * history of famous Polish foods * menus and recipes your family and friends will love * glossary of Polish food items..."

I am positive she didn't buy it to impress her mother-in-law, my Polish grandmother, since my parents wed in 1952 and I know mom was well past the trying to impress stage.

Just what are famous Polish foods? Pierogi, hunter's stew (bigos), stuffed cabbage, noodles and cabbage and something called fire vodka.

"Beyond bringing the size of Polish cooking under control, we have also, by diligent testing, brought you a rich cuisine that is matched to American kitchen equipment and that contains only those ingredients that are easily found in American markets. We have done this without sacrificing Polish tradition or that great Polish taste. Our testing is the guarantee."

A guarantee like that, well, I swiped the book.
Here's the recipe for hunter's stew, which my Polish grandmother made a lot:

Hunter's Stew (bigos)
* 1 cup chopped bacon
* 1 pound of boneless pork, cut into small cubes
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced
* 3 onions, quartered
* 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
* 2 cups beef stock
* 2 Tablespoons sugar
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed under cold water and drained
* 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
* 2 cups canned tomatoes, with juice, cut into pieces
* 1 cup diced cooked ham
* 1 and 1/2 cups Polish sausage, cut into small chunks
* salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: sour cream, served on the side

Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven, to render the fat. Drain the bacon on the side and reserve. Then toss the pork chunks, garlic, onions, and mushrooms into the rendered fat. Saute on medium low until the meat is browned--about 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, sugar, bay leaves, sauerkraut, and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Stir in the ham and sausage, then cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 30 more minutes.

When ready to serve, remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the reserved bacon, and serve with boiled potatoes, a bowl of sour cream, and thick, crusty bread.


gautami tripathy said...

I never consult any cookbook. I try to recall my mom's recipes. Either I ask her or for newer ones, I search the net!

BTW, I put up your link here!Hope you don't come to kill me!

claire said...

I love Pierogi! And that hunter's stew looks like something my family would love, thanks.

quin browne said...

i ate at an amazing place in london, that was all fresh made, authentic polish food.. one of the best meals i've ever had!

Life without Clots said...

My first exposure to Polish (presuming because the chef was Devork) was Pork Chops and Sauerkraut over mashed potatoes way back in '72 while in the Navy. When I met my future wife thirty-plus years later, she made the same dish. Instantly I knew that she was the one for me.

Dee Martin said...

My dad's friends from before I was even thought of were Polish and taught my mom to cook. She used to make a variation of Hunters Stew and can it. The pantry was a little room on the side of the laundry room that you had to pass through to enter and exit the house. After I left home, whenever I came for a visit I would make a stop st the pantry on my way out and take a jar of that ambrosia with me. I will be making this soon - thanks so much for sharing!