By Robert Strybel
The Polish Chef

Whether wondering what to serve your family during Lent or holding parish or club Lenten suppers, here are a few items to consider.

HERRING IN OIL (śledź w oleju): Drain 12 – 16 oz. jar marinated herring, discarding onions and spices. Plunge into cold water, drain and pat dry. Halve and slice thin 2 onions, place in pot, scald with boiling water and after 1-2 min drain. Combine herring and onions, place in clean jar and drench with salad oil of choice to cover. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with plain boiled potatoes or rye bread.

FRIED FISH (ryba smażona): Wash and dry 2 -3 lbs fresh-water or ocean fish fillets. Sprinkle with lemon juice, intersperse with onion slices, salt well and refrigerate several hrs or overnight. When ready to use, discard onions, rinse dry fillets well on absorbent paper, salt & pepper, dredge in flour, shaking off excess, and fry on both sides in hot oil until golden brown on the outside and fully cooked on the inside. Serve with horseradish sauce: 1 part prepared horseradish and 1 part sour cream, seasoned to tattie with a pinch of salt and a little sugar.

LENTEN RYEMEAL SOUP (postny żur): In pot combine 4 c water, a chopped  onion and cook until onion is tender. Add 2-3 c “żurek” (bottled liquid ryemeal sour available at Polish delis), 1/4 of a mushroom bouillon cube and 1 bud crushed garlic. Stir in 2 T flour dissolved in 1/2 c water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 min. Season with salt, pepper and marjoram and serve over hard-cooked egg slices and/or cubed cooked potatoes. Provide horseradish for those who want a zingier soup.

POTATO PANCAKES (placki kartoflane): Grate 2-1/4 lbs peeled potatoes (by hand or in food processor), transfer to sieve and let drip into bowl. Allow drippings to settle, pour off liquid from top and add the white sediment (starch) to the grated potatoes. Add 1-2  grated onion, about 2 T flour, 2 eggs and salt & pepper. Mix well and spoon batter into hot fat. With spatula flatten pancakes slightly, since thin ones cook better. Fry to a nice crispy, golden brown on both sides and drain on absorbent paper. Serve immediately sweet or savory (just salted a little).

CRÊPES (naleśniki): In bowl combine 1 scant c milk with 2 beaten eggs and 1/8 t salt and whisk until smooth. Gradually add 1¼ c flour, sifted, whisking constantly until lump-free and air blisters appear on surface. Whisk in about 1 c water – or just enough to get a thin, pourable batter. Lightly grease frying pan with crumpled-up paper towel dipped in oil. (Note: Special non-stick crêpe pans are available!) Pour in a little batter, tilt frying pan to coat entire surface and fry on fairly high heat. Flip crêpe over and cook briefly on other side. Stack fried naleśniki on inverted dinner plate. Re-grease pan before adding more batter. Fillings include savory cheese (farmer cheese mashed with sour cream), sweet cheese (farmer cheese mixed with sugar and raw egg yolk), jam or preserves of choice (imported Polish powidła [plum butter] is excellent). Provide sour cream.

RAISED  PANCAKES (racuchy): Beat 2 c sour milk or buttermilk with 2 eggs. Beat in 2 c + 2 T flour until smooth. Stir in 1 t baking powder and 1 t baking soda. (Optional: Add 1/2 t liquid vanilla extract to batter if desired.) Spoon batter into 1/4” deep hot oil, fry roughly 3” pancakes to a nice golden-brown on both sides and drain on absorbent paper. Serve hot, dusted with confectioner’s sugar or topped with preserves, jam, plum butter, syrup or canned pie filling of choice.

PIEROGI DOUGH (ciasto na pierogi): Combine 2 c flour, 1 c dairy sour cream, 1 small egg and 1/2 t salt. Work ingredients together to form a smooth dough and knead briefly. Roll out 1/3 of the dough lightly floured board, leaving the remainder under a warm inverted bowl so it doesn’t dry out. With drinking-glass or biscuit-cutter cut dough-sheet into rounds. Place a spoonful of filling (see below) just off center of each dough round, cover filling with larger dough flap and pinch edges together to seal. Cook in boiling lightly salted water. When they float up, cook a while longer. Test one for doneness. 

CHEESE & POTATO PIEROGI FILLING (ruskie pierogi [z serem i kartoflami]): Cook 1 lb peeled potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain, mash and set aside to cool. To potatoes add 1/2 lb farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese, mashed with potato-masher or processed to a ground-like consistency in processor, 2 finely chopped onions sautéed in 2 T oil or butter until tender and lightly browned. Mix ingredients well and season with salt & pepper.  As toppings, provide sour cream (or plain low-fat yogurt for dieters) or chopped onions fried in oil.

CHEESE PIEROGI FILLING (pierogi z serem): Combine 3/4 lb farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese, pulverized to a powder in food-processor,  1/4 t salt, 1 t sugar, 2 t lemon juice  and 1 raw egg yolk into a smooth filling. The cooked pierogi may be served with melted butter, confectioner’s sugar or, sour cream.

POTATO & ONION PIEROGI FILLING (pierogi z kartoflami): Cook 6-7 med potatoes until tender, drain well, steaming off moisture, and mash thoroughly are put through ricer. Simmer 2-3 fine chopped onions in oil until nicely browned and tender-combine with cooked potatoes. Salt & pepper to taste and allow to cool before stuffing pierogi.