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Feb 26, 2024

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Babcia’s Homemade
Comfort Foods – Part 2

The Polish Chef
By Robert Strybel

Comfort foods are those delicacies our mothers and grandmothers, maybe an aunt or friend of the family used to whip up and serve back when we were kids. Over the years many people have drifted away and have no idea how to prepare them but nevertheless nostalgically recall their savory taste and aroma and, above all, the warm family atmosphere that surrounded those meals. Maybe you’ll recall some of the following:

 

JELLIED PIG’S FEET (galareta/zimne nogi/studzienina): Singe 6 split pig’s feet over flame to remove any remaining bristle. Scrub well with stiff brush, rinse and place in pot, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Simmer several min, then pour off water. Add fresh cold water to cover (2-1/2 qts more or less) and 1 T salt, bring to boil once again and reduce heat. Skim off any scum that forms at top. Add 8-10 peppercorns and 3 broken-up bay leaves and cook on low heat 2 hr. Add 1 portion soup greens (about 12 oz or ¾ lb carrot, parsley root, celery, leek or onion) and cook another 2 hr or until meat falls away from bone. When meat is nearly ready, add 2 – 3 buds crushed garlic. Remove pork feet. Drain stock, discarding vegetables and spices. (Optional: The carrot may be saved, diced and added to the aspic for better color.)  Remove the meat from bones, discard bones and dice meat. Transfer meat to glass or crockery pans and drench with stock no higher than 2”.  Refrigerate over night. Before serving scrape fat from top and discard. Cut into squares. Provide a cruet of vinegar as a condiment. Serve with rye bread. Hot tea and/or cold vodka will help wash it down!

ROAST PORK WITH PRUNES (pieczeń wieprzowa ze śliwkami): Rub a 4-5 lb tied, rolled, boneless pork shoulder roast all over with salt, pepper, marjoram and 1 – 2 buds crushed garlic. Place on rack in roasting pan and roast in 325° oven about 25 min per pound, basting occasionally. To drippings in pan add 3 quartered onions and 1-2 c unpitted prunes, and baste meat with ½ c dark beer (Polish Porter or Guinness stout). Bake until meat is fork-tender. Serve with rice, mashed or boiled potatoes and a grated carrot, apple & horseradish salad (see below).

GRATED CARROT/APPLE/HORSERADISH SALAD: (surówka z marchwi, jabłek i chrzanu): Combine 4 washed, peeled finely grated carrots with 2-3 peeled, cored, coarsely grated apples. Sprinkle with lemon juice, toss and stir in 1-2 heaping T prepared horseradish. Season to taste with salt (sparingly), sugar and lemon juice. Lace with 2 heaping T sour cream or 1 T sour cream and 1 T mayonnaise.

STEWED SAUERKRAUT (kapusta duszona): Rinse 2 qts sauerkraut in a pot of cold water, transfer to colander and press out moisture. Chop coarsely, place in pot scald with 3 c boiling water, bring to boil and cook uncovered 15 min. Add 1 bay leaf, cover and cook on med-low 30 min. Add 1 mushroom bouillon cube and ½ t caraway seeds (optional). Dice and fry ¼ lb pork fatback or bacon. When pale-golden add a chopped onion and simmer until browned. Stir in 1 heaping T flour, brown lightly and add to sauerkraut. Optional: Add 1-2 t sugar. Cook 30 min or until very tender.. Serve as a side with hot kiełbasa or pork chops,

COMPOTE, HOME-MADE FRUIT DRINK (kompot): Although most kids are crazy about fizzy, syrupy soft drinks (Sprite, Fanta, Coke, etc.), a healthier alternative is a home-made compote containing fresh fruit. This is like the syrup in canned peaches, pears, cherries, etc., only thinner and home-made. You can make it as intense (lots of fruit) or thin (lots of liquid) as you like and sweeten it heavily or lightly. There is no recipe as such, just a rule of thumb and a bit of common sense. For instance, take a 1-2 cup of fruit (washed, pitted plums, peeled, cored and sliced apples or pears, pitted or unpitted cherries, peeled, pitted and sliced peaches, etc.), place in saucepan, add 4-6 cups water and cook until fruit is fully cooked (5-10 min). Sweeten to taste and serve room temp. or chilled with a little of the fruit in each glass. A sprinkling of lemon juice will provide added zing, and a tiny pinch of cinnamon or a grating of nutmeg may also be added.

APPLE CAKE (szarlotka): Combine 2¾ c flour with 1 c confectioner’s sugar, 4 egg yolks and ¼  t salt and blend ingredients into a uniform dough. Do not knead!  Roll into ball, wrap in foil and refrigerate at least 30 min. Meanwhile, in pot combine 1 lb tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced, with ½ c sugar and simmer on low heat until apples are tender. To cooked apples add 1¼ lb peeled, diced or sliced uncooked apples. Add ½ t vanilla extract and a pinch of ground nutmeg or cinnamon. Divide chilled dough in half. Roll one half out thin into a rectangle or square to fit your baking pan and come up the sides. Pierce with fork all over and bake in preheated 390° oven 10-15 min. Add apple filling and spread it out evenly. Roll out remaining dough half and cover apples. Reduce heat to 350° and bake about 45-60 min. Dust cake with confectioner’s sugar.

PLUM CAKE (placek ze śliwkami): Beat ½ c butter and 1 c sugar until smooth (about 2 min).  Continue beating, adding 2 eggs 1 at a time. Mix 2 c flour with 2 t baking powder and ¼ t salt and sift into bowl. Gradually stir in the butter-sugar-egg mixture, ½ t vanilla extract and ¾ c milk, beating the whole time until smooth. Transfer dough to greased square or rectangular baking pan. Top dough with ripe Italian plum halves (węgierki) cut-side-up and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon. Dot with about 2 T cold butter and bake in preheated 350° oven about 40-45 min, or until inserted wooden pick comes out clean. If not as sweet as you like, dust with confectioner’s sugar.