Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hunter's Stew...Dun, Dun, Dunnnnn!

Saturday brought something I've been viewing with trepidation this entire week.  Hunter's stew.  One of the first recipes we found when we started looking at Poland was this strange sauerkraut soup with pork in it.  If I haven't mentioned my wife's aversion to all things pickled, let me say that in general, she can smell an open jar of pickles from 200 yards away.  I think she had a physical reaction to just the concept of a stew with four pounds of sauerkraut in the recipe.

Before that, though, there was breakfast.  I admit, I slept in until nine because it was Saturday.  I woke at about the time that Angel had the sour cream pancakes frying in the pan, and I hustled downstairs to partake.  I thought that they were pretty much like pancakes, just heavier.  They were sprinkled with powdered sugar, and it added just enough sweetness to enjoy the creamy cakes.  All the kids did was lament loudly about the lack of syrup on them until we relented, and then there was much scarfing of pancakes.

Following breakfast, Angel pretty much started cooking dinner -- Hunter's stew and onion rolls. According to Wikipedia, Hunter's Stew, or Bigos, is a traditional stew that might be considered Poland's national dish, and is often served on the second day of Christmas.  My wife says it takes three hours to cook; there's spare ribs and pork to brown, cabbage to chop, bacon to fry, mushrooms and onions to fry, more ingredients (including four pounds of sauerkraut) to mix, and a half-hour of simmering after all that.  As if that weren't enough, Angel made the first dinner rolls from scratch that she's ever made.

Elouise and Allison Helping #3

So how'd it go?  Well, after learning from the kielbasa and kraut that she liked cooked sauerkraut, Angel wasn't dreading the stew, and ended up liking it quite a bit.  I liked it -- the broth was savory, tomato-ey and salty, and complemented well by the meat and large chunks of wild mushroom.  The kids...they touched their tongues to the broth and immediately began waving around downturned thumbs and wailing "ewww," "gross," and "blech" in a disheartening chorus.  We got the twins to at least eat the meat, but Gable and Evelyn invoked our "PBJ back-door" and made themselves peanut-butter sandwiches.  Three hours of Angel's labor were rewarded by five seconds of tasting and a gale of complaints.  They're my children and I love them...but how disappointing.  If this is how relatively-familiar Poland goes, I can't wait to see them when we spend our week somewhere really exotic.

Bigos & Cebulaki


BIGOS (Hunter's Stew)
The secret of Bigos is that it gets better as it's reheated. The more it heated the better it gets. Serve with good bread.

4 lbs sauerkraut
1 cup apple juice
1 lb smoked pork
1 lb spareribs
1/4 lb bacon
1 can tomatoes (large)
2 cups water
2 bay leaves

black pepper

4 lbs cabbage
1 lb pork loin chop or pork ribs
1 lb smoked kielbasa (sausage)
1/2 cup onions (chopped)
16 ounces mushrooms (fresh)
1 ounce mushrooms (dried)
2 tablespoons flour
1. Brown pork and spareribs in a large heavy pot.
2. Add smoked pork with 1 cup of water and simmer until 1 hour.
3. Add the sauerkraut and one cup apple juice.
4. Chop the cabbage fine and add to sauerkraut.
5. Add lots of pepper and salt cover and simmer 1 hour.
6. Remove lid and keep pot on a very low simmer.
7. In a pan, fry bacon until crisp, then crumble into sauerkraut mixture.
8. Remove most of the bacon fat and fry onions and mushrooms and flour until they just brown.
9. Mix into sauerkraut mixture.
10. Cut kielbasa into slices add to sauerkraut mixture with the tomatoes.
11. Bring to a boil, simmer 30 minutes and serve hot.
 -- from

Onion Rolls (cebulaki)
Before World War II, these zesty rolls were a specialty of Polish Jewish bakeries, but they continue to have many devotees to this day.  In small bowl, mash 1/2 cake yeast (equal to 1/2 pkt dry yeast) with 1t. sugar, add 3/4c. lukewarm milk, and 1/2c. all-purpose flour, sifted.  Mix well, cover with cloth, and let stand in warm place to rise about 10-15min.  Sift 2c. all-purpose flour into a larger bowl, add yeast mixture, 3T. cooking oil, 1 beaten egg, and 1/2-1t. salt.  Work by hand into a smooth, glossy dough. Cover with cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled (30-45min). Transfer to floured board, sprinkle with a little flour, and divide into 8 equal parts.  Between floured hands, roll each piece into ball, flatten with palm, and roll each into 1/4-inch-thick circle.  Place on greased baking sheet, leaving 1-1/2 inch space between rolls.  Cover with cloth and let rise in warm place about 60min.  Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice 4 onions and saute in 2T. fat (oil, butte,r oleo, lard) to a pale golden hue.  Ad 1T. water, cover, and simmer 1-2 min. or until liquid evaporates.  Salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.  When rolls have doubled, use floured bottom of drinking glass to make a depression at center of each and fill depression with fried onions.  Brush parts of rolls extending beyond onion filling with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppyseeds.  Bake in pre-heated 350-degree oven about 20-30 minutes or until golden.  These are good hot or cold.
--from Polish Heritage Cookery, Robert and Maria Strybel

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