WIGILIA FAVORITES MADE EASY
Compiled by Our Warsaw Correspondent Robert Strybel
HERRING IN OIL (śledź w oleju): Drain 8 - 12 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.
HERRING SALAD (sałatka śledziowa): Drain 8 oz. jar marinated herring and discard onions and spices. Dice herring and place in salad bowl. Add 2 c. cold, cooked diced potatoes, 2 peeled, diced cooking apples, 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped dill pickles and 1 t. chopped fresh parsley. Toss gently and fold in sauce: fork-blend 1˝ c. mayonnaise with ˝ c. sour cream and 1- 2 T. brown prepared mustard. Chill at least 2 hrs before serving. Optional: for a gourmet twist add 1 heaping t. capers.
CLEAR BEETROOT SOUP (czysty barszcz czerwony): In pot combine 3 c. beet juice (from canned beets) and 2 c. apple juice and heat. In it dissolve 3 vegetable bouillon cubes (enough for 3 c. bouillon). Add 2 T. vinegar 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.
COUNTRY-STYLE MUSHROOM SOUP (zupa grzybowa po wiejsku): In 2 T. butter or oil cook 8 oz. chopped fresh portobello mushrooms and 1 chopped onion until lightly browned. Place in soup pot, drench with 6 c. water, add 2 peeled diced potatoes and 1 mushroom bouillon and cook until potatoes are tender. Cream with ž c. sour cream fork-blended with a heaping T. flour. Sour to taste with żur liquid (ryemeal sour available at Polish delis), sauerkraut juice or vinegar. Salt & pepper to taste and simmer a while longer. Serve as is or over cooked egg noodles. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley before serving.
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 ž c. fork-blended sour cream, add ź 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 2˝ c. flour onto board, sprinkle with ˝ t. salt, deposit whole egg and 1 T. salad oil at center and blend ingredients. Add about ˝ 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 ˝ lb crumbed farmer cheese and mash together with the potatoes until mixture is uniform. (If you like, you can whirl ˝ 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). Note: If you cant make them from scratch, use store-bought pierogi in keeping with the made easy in this columns title.
SAUERKRAUT-FILLED PIEROGI (pierogi z kapustą): Prepare pierogi dough as above. Fill with spoonfuls of cold sauerkraut & mushrooms (below), chopped, with all moisture squeezed out.
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 ˝ 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 AND PEAS (kapusta z grochem): Prepare as above, but reduce amount of mushrooms used to 4-6 oz. Before transferring to casserole, add 1 can of well-drained, pea beans. Add 1 t marjoram to the seasonings.
NOODLES & CABBAGE In a little oil or butter fry about 4-6 oz. sliced fresh portabello mushrooms and a small chopped onion until browned. Scald 3 c. shredded cabbage with boiling water to cover, bring to boil, simmer 5 min. and drain. Add fresh water and cook uncovered until tender. Add the mushrooms & onion and ˝ a mushroom bouillon cube and cook another 10 min. or so. Salt & pepper to taste and combine with 1 pkg hot, cooked, drained egg noodles (kluski type).
DRIED-FRUIT COMPOTE (kompot wigilijny z suszu): Soak 2 c. mixed dry fruit, ˝ c. diced dried figs and ˝ 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 ź 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 ˝ - ž c. store-bought poppyseed filling (more or less to taste), 1 - 2 T honey and ˝ t. vanilla. Optional: ź - ˝ c. ground or chopped almonds or walnuts and/or ˝ c. plumped raisins may be added. Variation: Substitute cooked rice or barley for the wheat.
POLISH PANCAKES (racuszki): Use store-bought plain or buckwheat pancake mix for this recipe and prepare according to instructions on pkg, using a tad more milk or buttermilk than directed. Into large skillet pour oil to a depth of ź and heat until fairly hot. Spoon batter into hot oil, fry roughly 3 pancakes to a nice golden-brown on both sides. Add more oil as needed to maintain the ź depth. Transfer fried pancakes to absorbent paper. Serve with fruit syrup or topping (preserves, canned pie filling), honey or dusted with confectioners sugar.