Wigilia Favorites Made Easy
HERRING IN OIL (śledź w oleju): Drain 2 oz. jar marinated herring, discarding onions and spices. If desired, cut herring into smaller pieces. Place in clean jar and drench with salad oil to cover. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, remove herring with fork to serving platter. Top each piece with a little very finely chopped onion. Decorate platter with parsley sprigs. Serve with rye bread or boiled potatoes.
CREAMED HERRING WITH APPLE (śledź w śmietanie z jabłkiem): Drain a 14-16 oz jar of marinated herring, discarding onion and spices. Cut herring into 1½ inch or so serving-size pieces, plunge into a large pot of cold water for 1 min. Drain well in sieve until all dripping stops. Arrange pieces of herring on serving dish. Drizzle with juice of 1 small lemon (through a sieve to catch the pits). Coarsely grate 1 cored, peeled, small tart apple and mix with herring pieces. Arrange on serving dish. Slice 2 small onions wafer thin, break into rings and intersperse with herring. For-blend ½ – 1 c sour cream, 1 t confectioner’s sugar and 1 T prepared horseradish and pour over herring. Refrigerate covered several hrs before serving with boiled potatoes or rye bread.
CLEAR BEETROOT SOUP (czysty barszcz czerwony): In pot combine 3 c. beet juice (from canned beets) and or to taste and season to taste with a little garlic powder, liquid mushroom extract, pepper, sugar and a pinch of marjoram. Simmer a few min., switch off heat and let stand a few min covered for flavors to blend. Note: This soup can also be made with liquid beet concentrate (koncentrat barszczu), available at Polish delis. There you can also find Krakus and Hortex brand heat-and-eat barszcz in 1-liter cartons. Serve with hot, hand-held pasties (below)
PASTIES (paszteciki): Open a can of refrigerator crescent-roll dough. Place a spoonful of filling on each piece, roll up, pinch sides shut and bake according to package directions. For the filling, combine 1 c. cooked rice, 5 chopped hard-cooked eggs 2 diced onions sautéed in 2 T. butter until lightly browned. Combine ingredients with 1 small beaten uncooked egg, 1 – 2 heaping T. chopped fresh or frozen dill and salt & pepper to taste.
CLEAR MUSHROOM SOUP (czysta zupa grzybowa): Wash well, drain and dice 6 oz. fresh Portobello mushrooms, simmer with a small chopped onion in 2 T. butter 10-15 min. or until fully cooked. Place in pot, add 6 c. water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube and simmer covered 10 min. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar. Garnish with a little fresh chopped parley, if desired, and serve over cooked egg noodles or lasagna cut into 1” squares.
FRIED FISH (ryba smażona): Wash and dry 2 -3 lbs fresh or thawed fish fillets (pike, carp, walleye, lake perch, catfish, bass, cod, hake, pollock, haddock, etc.), sprinkle with lemon juice, intersperse with onion slices, salt well and refrigerate several hrs or overnight. Rinse and pat dry, salt & pepper, dust with paprika, sprinkle with a pinch of sage and either:
1) 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. 2) Roll fillets in 50-50 mixture of plain bread crumbs and flour and fry as above; or 3) Dredge in flour, dip in egg wash and roll in bread crumbs before frying as above. Drain fried fillets on absorbent paper before serving. Serve with horseradish sauce (below).
HORSERADISH SAUCE (sos chrzanowy): Instead of Anglo-Saxon tartar sauce, fork-blend ⅔ c. mayonnaise, ⅓ c. sour cream and 1-2 heaping T. prepared horseradish. Season to taste with lemon juice, sugar and a pinch of salt.
CREAM-BAKED PIKE (szczupak zapiekany w śmietanie): Rinse well and pat and dry 2 lbs northern pike, walleye or sea pike (hake) fillets, sprinkle with juice of 1 lemon, salt well and refrigerate several hrs or overnight. Pat dry. Place 1 T. butter in casserole and heat in oven. Place fillets in casserole and roll in the hot butter to coat all sides. Bake in 375° oven uncovered about 15 min. Meanwhile, in saucepan melt 2 T. butter, stir in 1 T. flour. Remove form heat, stir in ¾ c. fork-blended sour cream, add ¼ t. salt, return to and simmer until bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1 t. lemon juice. Pour sauce over fish and bake about 15-20 or until fish is fully cooked. Dust with paprika and garnish with chopped parsley just before serving.
CHEESE & POTATO-FILLED PIEROGI (pierogi z kartoflami i serem., “ruskie”): For pierogi dough, sift 2½ c. flour onto board, sprinkle with ½ t. salt, deposit whole egg and 1 T. salad oil at center and blend ingredients. Add about ½ c. cold water a little at a time, working the dough constantly to absorb it. Knead dough until smooth, roll it into a ball and let is rest beneath a warm inverted bowl 10 min. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: cook 1 lb potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and cool. Add ½ lb crumbed farmer cheese and mash together with the potatoes until mixture is uniform. (If you like, you can whirl ½ lb dried cottage cheese in food-processor to a fine powder and use it instead of the farmer cheese.) In 2 T. oil lightly brown 2 chopped onions and add to mixture. Mix well and salt & pepper to taste. Roll out dough thin on floured board, cut into rounds with glass or biscuit-cutter, place a spoonful of filling at center of each round, fold in half, pinch edges together to seal. Cook in batches in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cooking time is roughly 10 min. but test one for doneness just to be sure. Serve with melted butter, sour cream or butter-fried bread crumbs (Polonaise topping).
SAUERKRAUT & MUSHROOMS (kapusta z grzybami): Drain 1 qt sauerkraut, reserving juice. Swish sauerkraut around in a large pot of cold water, drain in colander, press out moisture, and chop. Place sauerkraut in pot, scald with boiling water to cover, add a small bay leaf, bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook uncovered on med. heat about 1 hr. Replace water that evaporates and stir occasionally. While sauerkraut cooks, in 3 T. oil fry up 8 – 12 oz. diced fresh portobello mushrooms and 2 chopped onions on med. high heat, stirring frequently, until fully cooked and browned (about 15 min.). Combine drained cooked sauerkraut and mushrooms, crumble in 1 mushroom bouillon cube, thicken with 1 T. of flour, season with a little pepper and ½ t. caraway seeds, transfer to casserole and bake covered in 350° oven 1 hr. If not as tart as you like, sour with some of the reserved sauerkraut juice. This can be made a day ahead and reheated just before serving.
SAUERKRAUT & PEAS (kapusta z grochem): Drain and cook 1 qt coarsely-chopped sauerkraut in water to cover, adding 1 bay leaf, 5 peppercorns, and 1 mushroom bouillon cube 1 hr. Separately drain 1-2 c canned chick pea, cover with boiling water and cook covered on low 30 min. In skillet fry 8 oz washed, diced Portobello mushrooms and 1 med chopped onion until nicely browned. Add the mushrooms & onion to the sauerkraut, drain and add chickpeas and continue cooking on low in the same pot 1 hr, stirring occasionally, or transfer to baking dish and bake in oven 1 hr or so at 350°F. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a little sugar and several pinches marjoram. Instead of chickpeas, you may use beans (navy, great northern, lima or pea-beans) These require no cooking – just drain and add to sauerkraut.
SAUERKRAUT & NOODLE SQUARES (kapusta z łazankami): Prepare sauerkraut as in preceding recipe but omit chickpeas or beans. Cook a pkg of lasagna longer than directions on package indicate, so it is no longer “al dente” (rubbery), but fully cooked. Drain, rinse under cold running water in colander, drip dry and cut into squares. Combine with the hot sauerkraut and serve.
DRIED-FRUIT COMPOTE (kompot wigilijny z suszu): Soak 2 c. mixed dry fruit, ½ c. diced dried figs and ½ c raisins in water to cover water 2 hrs. Add a little more water if all has been absorbed and cook about 15 min. A pinch of cinnamon may be added before cooking. Serve chilled in dessert bowls. NOTE: To serve as a fruit drink, dilute with as much pre-boiled water as you like. Add a sprinkle of lemon juice for added zing.
NOODLES & FRUIT (kluski z kompotem): The above compote (as is or thickened with 1 t cornstarch when cold and then briefly brought to boil) may be served over cooked, well-drained egg noodles, dotted with butter, as one of the sweet dishes of Wigilia.
FRUIT & GRAIN OR RICE DISH (kasza lub ryż z owocami): Numerous sweet dishes combining some form of grain with fruit toppings have long been Wigilia favorites. You can spoon your home-made compote (above) over hot cooked rice or barley or use canned apple-pie or cherry-pie filling for the purpose. Or cook several peeled, cored, diced cooking apples with sugar to taste in a little water until tender, add a pinch of cinnamon and spoon over the grain. Fruit preserves of choice may also be used.
GRAIN & POPPYSEED DESSERT (kutia/kucja): Prepare 1-2 c. bulghur wheat according to pkg directions. Leave wheat in pot until cooled to room temp. Stir in about ½ – ¾ c. store-bought poppyseed filling (more or less to taste), 1 – 2 T honey and ½ t. vanilla. Optional: ¼ – ½ c. ground or chopped almonds or walnuts and/or ½ c. plumped raisins may be added. Variation: Substitute cooked rice or barley for the wheat.
POLISH APPLE PANCAKES (racuszki z jabłkami): Peel, slice thin and dice 2-3 tart cooking apples and sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon.. Use store-bought pancake mix for this recipe and prepare according to instructions on pkg, using a tad more milk or buttermilk than directed, but omitting the oil. Into large skillet pour oil to a depth of ¼” and heat until fairly hot. Spoon batter into hot oil, place a spoonful of diced apples on each pancake and cover with a little more batter. When batter on top is no longer wet, flip over and fry on the other side to a nice golden-brown. Pancakes should measure roughly 3”. Add more oil as needed to maintain the ¼” depth. Transfer fried pancakes to absorbent paper. Serve dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
The Polish Chef