Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Redemption Tuesday, We'll Call It

Holy wow.  After the highly questionable soup we had last night, tonight's dinner was not only better, but possibly one of the best dinners I've ever had.  Ever.  Sweet redemption, thy name be "Tuesday Night Dinner."

But before we had dinner, there was breakfast.  Angel hauled herself out of bed much earlier than she would have liked and made Polish style potato pancakes for breakfast.  Apparently, these are nothing like the potato pancakes or latke that one would be used to, with the potatoes being almost like refried mashed taters -- no, Polish style indicates the ingredients are shredded.  The recipe calls for 8 potatoes, grated, but we substituted frozen Ore-Ida hash browns.  The end result was much like really good hash-browns with onions in them, but maybe that's because Angel fed me the crispier patties. ('cuz I like crunchy hashbrowns!)  The thicker, softer patties let the other ingredients shine through.  We had a squabble with Gable, who didn't want to eat the onions in them, but otherwise I thought they were good.

I'm thinking that lunches and snacks are going to be the weakest link of our project.  The Polish may eat breakfasts at home and work, then dinner early, but the American workplace doesn't really bother itself with that sort of thing -- lunch is at noon.  I brought leftover pirogi for lunch, but ate them with non-traditional Diet Coke and an orange.  Worse yet, when free Chicken Caesar wraps showed up in the breakroom, I inhaled one, which is WAY off from the intention to eat like a Pole.  We won't even mention what Angel did for lunch. *cough*McDonalds*cough*  We found, too, that there's not much snacking in Poland; people eat leftover dinner for snacks.  Snacking might not be an issue this week, as the diet is heavy and filling, but when we're eating in a country whose diet is defined more by shortages and privation, the desire to snack may become dark-side-of-the-Force strong.

Tonight's dinner was Clear Berry Soup, Cucumber Salad and Stuffed Chicken, Polish Style.  When I got home from work, the chickens had just gone into the oven and Angel was chopping cucumbers for the salad.

Chopping Cucumbers

Our first course of dinner was the soup course: Clear Berry Soup.  It's basically blueberries or huckleberries boiled in water, then sieved to remove the bulk of the berries.  Sugar for taste and flour for thickening are added.  In our case, we don't own a food sieve, so Angel mashed the berries with a potato masher and left them in the pot.  We all thought the soup was tasty (Gable needed extra sugar in his before he'd lend it his endorsement) but not at all what we would think of as soup.  It wasn't overly sweet, and was not at all syrupy -- it really did have a blueberry broth.  Again, the twins licked it off the table.  Then again, we had them at "blueberry."

Tuesday Dinner, Plated

After the soup course, we served the chicken, stuffing and salad.  Starting with the salad, Angel and I liked it, and Gable liked it at first but not after eating more.  The flavor was really quite interesting.  The cucumbers, sour cream, dill and white wine vinegar combined wonderfully yet stayed separate -- more like we tasted each of them at the same time, than like tasting a mixture.

Cucumber Salad

But the chicken.  Oh, the chicken.  Angel has cast her vote for it being Best. Chicken. Ever.  It's a simple recipe.  The chickens are sprinkled with just salt, and the dressing is seasoned with salt, pepper and dill.  No sage.  No roasted garlic rub, no spices at all, really.  Angel said that the dressing was not like StoveTop or traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  It used breadcrumbs (like you'd roll fish in to fry) and mixed into a sort of slurry that was packed into the birds.  The chicken roasted uncovered and needed basting -- very important to never cover, so it roasts instead of steams.

Kurczeta Po Polsku

And the flavor...the texture... Juicy, delicious, delicate.  I could taste a hint of the dill in the stuffing that had perfused through the meat.  The drumstick bones pulled right out of the drumsticks.  And just as with last night's pirogi, there were no strong spices or sauces hiding the flavor of the ingredients.  Angel usually detests slabs of whitemeat chicken, but had seconds.  Evelyn had seven, yes seven helpings of chicken.


 Potato Pancakes (Placki kartoflane)
8 large potatoes, peeled, cut up and grated (in a blender)
1 large onion, cut up and grated (in a blender)
1 egg
3Tbs flour
1/3 cup bacon drippings
(note, we used Ore-Ida frozen hashbrowns and the onion was diced, not blended)

Combine the potatoes with the onions, egg, and flour.  Season with salt.  Heat the bacon fat in a large skillet.  Drop batter by spoonfuls into fat.  Flatten with a fork.  Fry 3 pancakes at one time on high heat on both sides till golden.  Serve with mushrooms and salad (we didn't!)  Serves 6
--The art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska, page 241

 Clear Berry Soup (Zupa Jagodowa Czysta)
1 quart blueberries (huckleberries or blackberries may be substituted
1 1/2 quarts water
sugar to taste
1tbs potato flour

Clean berries and bring to boil.  When fruit is soft -- about 10 or 15 minutes -- press through a sieve and then return to liquid.  Add sugar to taste and the potato flour dissolved in cold water.  Stir thoroughly.  Serve hot or iced.  Serves 6.
-- Polish Cookery, Marja Ochorowicz-Monotowa, page 20

Cucumber Salad
Prep time: 30min.  Serves: 6
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup sour cream
2tsps white wine vinegar
1tsp sugar
1Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper

Wash the cucumber well.  Trim off the thin ends of the cucumber.  Using a cannelle knife or the prongs of a fork, score the skin of the cucumber in long strips.  Cut the cucumber into thin slices and place in a colander.  Sprinkle with salt and leave for 30min.  Place the colander in a bowl to collect the cucumber liquid.  Rinse the cucumber well and pat dry.  Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and toss with the cucumber slices.  Arrange the cucumber in a serving dish and serve chilled.  Other chopped herbs may be used instead of, or in addition to, the dill.
--Polish Cooking, Traditional Recipes for the Contermporary Cook, Judith Ferguson

 Chicken Polish Style (Kurczeta po polsku)
2 small chickens, fryers or broilers
2 chicken livers
1 cup bread crumbs (not stuffing mix)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1tsp dill leaves
1/3 cup milk

Sprinkle the chickens with salt.  Chop the livers finely. (our chickens came with no giblet bag.  WTF?) Combine with bread crumbs.  Add the eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter, salt, pepper, dill and as much milk as needed for a loose, sour-creamlike consistency.  Stuff the birds, and roast in a hot 400-degreeF oven for 2 hours, basting with the rest of the butter.  Cut into halves or quarters.  Serve with young potatoes, cucumbers, or lettuce in sour cream.  Serves 4
--The Art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska, page 164-5

1 comment:

  1. Hey, when you need to dine on American cuisine consider it a Pole eating American food and you wont feel so guilty.