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:
MILK SOUPS (zupy mleczne): This was typical breakfast fare prepared by Polish immigrant babcias who did not much go for America corn flakes and other crunchy-munchy-style cold cereals. It is also a great way to use up such leftovers from the previous day’s dinner as cooked egg noodles or rice. Bring 4-5 c milk to gentle boil and add 1-2 c cold cooked egg noodles or rice, reduce heat to low, stir with wooden spoon and cook covered several minutes. Provide salt and sugar for your eaters, since some prefer it savory (salt only) while others like it sweet (sugar). Sweet eaters often add a pinch of cinnamon in addition to sugar. A pat or 2 butter added to individual servings will enrich the taste.
MILK SOUP WITH POURED-BATTER NOODLES (lane kluski na mleku): Gently bring 4-5 c milk to boil. In mixing cup combine 3 heaping T flour, 1 whole egg,1 t salt and several T cold milk and vigorously beat with fork to get a smooth pourable consistency. If it is too thick, beat in a bit more milk. Pour the batter in a thin stream into the boiling milk, stir with wooden spoon, reduce heat to low and cook 2-3 min. Serve in bowls. Provide both salt and sugar on the side.
SAUERKRAUT SOUP (kapuśniak): Prepare stock by cooking ½ – ¾ lbs meaty pork bones in 8 c water 1 hr, skimming off scum. Add 1 T salt, 2 carrots, 1 stalk celery 1 onion, 3 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns and 3 grains allspice and cook until meat comes away from bone. Drain 1 qt sauerkraut (reserving juice), rinse in cold water, drain, pressing out moisture, chop and add to strained stock. Cook on med heat uncovered 30 min. Dice meat from bones, and add to pot then reduce heat and cook covered until sauerkraut is very tender. In skillet fry up 4 slices diced bacon with 1 chopped onion, stir in 3 T flour and simmer until browned, stirring constantly. Dilute with several T soup and stir into a smooth paste. Add to pot, stir and simmer several more min. If soup is not as tart as you like, add some reserved sauerkraut liquid. Salt & pepper to taste. A t sugar and ½ t caraway seeds may be added if desired.
DUCK OR GOOSE SOUP (czernina): Place the cleaned giblets (make sure to cut open the gizzard and remove any semi-digested grain lodged therein!), neck, wings and rump of 1 duck or goose and ¾ lb pork ribs in pot containing 7 c water and cook 1 hr, skimming off scum. Add 1 portion soup greens, 1 bay leaf, 2 cloves 2 grains allspice and several peppercorns and cook until meat and vegetables are tender. Strain. Dice carrots, remove meat from bones, dice and return to stock. Add ½ c or more pitted prunes, ½ c diced dried apples and ⅓ c raisins and cook until fruit is tender. Remove from flame. Fork-blend blood of duck or goose (containing several T vinegar to prevent coagulation) with 1 T flour and stir into soup. Simmer briefly. Adjust to taste with a little salt, sugar, vinegar. Serve over egg-noodle squares or other egg noodles, potato dumplings or diced cooked potatoes. Roast the wingless, rumpless duck according to roast duck with apples recipe (below).
ROAST DUCK WITH APPLES (kaczka pieczona z jabłkami): Wash a 4-5 lb duck and pat dry. Rub inside and out with salt, pepper, marjoram and 1 bud crushed garlic. Let stand in covered roasting pan at room temp 2 hrs. Stuff tightly with unpeeled, cored quarters of tart cooking apples. Sew up duck’s neck and tail openings. Place duck on rack in roasting pan and roast in preheated 450°-500° oven 10-15 min, turning over to sear on all sides. Reduce to 350°-375°, sprinkle with 2 T water, prick with fork to release fat and roast 90 – 120 min or until fork tender. Baste with pan drippings frequently. Since the apple stuffing shrinks considerably, prepare additional apples on the side. Place 2 – 3 additional, peeled apple quarters in a separate baking pan, drench with several T duck pan drippings, sprinkle with marjoram and bake in same oven the last 45 min. Mix separately cooked apples with those with which the duck was stuffed and serve in serving dish.
(More next week… like Stewed Sauerkraut, Plum Cake, Homemade Fruit Drink)