The Polish Dinner Party

Babuska doll

The Fearless Cookers have three members who are of Polish descent with family names of Bilikiewicz, Figinski, Wisniewski. It was just a matter of time before we had a Polish celebration.

Last fall when we went to a Polish restaurant to celebrate Joy’s birthday at Cracovia.  We decided right there we would have our Polish dinner party. Now that the holidays are over, we could focus on cooking and learning some new recipes. We picked a weekend with no football and gathered the group and spouses.

All good cooking adventures begin with a shopping trip. We started at the Chicago Market in our neighborhood. The website link is all in Polish.

Chicago Market

Authentic Polish food, shipped in  from Chicago distributers, the hometown of the owner, Krystyna. What a wonderful, gracious person who helped us with our shopping list. There were also Polish-Colorado food items like locally produced honey.

owner of Chicago Market

Menu

Golumbki (pronounced gwumb – key)

Polish sausage and sauerkraut

Pierogis

Potatoes

Cold beet borscht

Chruscki

Belvedere Vodka

IMG_3662Golumbki, aka stuffed cabbage or cabbage rolls, are numerous in versions. We made spicy, medium and plain versions; some with or without tomato sauce.

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Next up were Chrusckis. These lovely delicate fried pastries that took a village to make.

mixing the dough

kneading the dough

cutting the dough

making the bow ties

frying

draining

finished chrusckis

Patty’s Points:

1.  I had never heard of Cabbage rolls until I was an adult and thought they sounded odd. But, if you grew up in Chicago, Baltimore or Philadelphia you would find pockets of Polish heritage. Cabbage rolls to me, were akin to church ladies gathering together to make, sell or serve for a potluck. If you searched the internet you would also find that different types of cabbage rolls native to some South Pacific and Asian cultures as well.

2. I had never understood how to separate the cabbage leaves from the head until I saw this website on how to softened cabbage leaves. Boy, did that help!

3.  Wrapping cabbage leaves around the stuffing of meat can be done two ways: like wrapping a burrito or “pinning” the leaves together with a toothpick while steaming. It depends on how large the cabbage leaf is that you are working with. You can steamed them on a stove top, bake in the oven, or heat in a crockpot. Pretty versatile. You can make them plain or place a tomato sauce atop.

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4. Chrusckis are also a group project. Joy said that they should never be made solo. As you can see in the above pictures, there are many steps involved. Mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, rolling it to a proper thickness, frying at the right temperature, draining and sprinkling with icing sugar. We actually used a pasta roller to get it a good thickness.

5. There are numerous recipes for chrusckis some have baking powder, some without. Joy referenced a recipe from a friend from  her teenage years .

Bow Ties from Alvena Brudzinski 

1 heaping TBSP butter

4 whole eggs

1 oz whiskey

1 tsp vanilla

4 C flour

3 TBSP baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 small can Pet (evaporated) milk (about 6 oz)

Directions:

Mix butter, eggs, vanilla, and whiskey.

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add dry mix to egg mix gradually at the same time add the evaporated milk gradually.

Knead the dough

Roll thin, cut into strips, cut a slit and pull one end of the dough through the slit.

Fry in vegetable oil or Crisco (325 degrees)

Drain on paper towels or paper bags

Dust heavily with powdered sugar.

Joy kept us organized with all the menu items to combine. A Polish village of Fearless Cooks

Chruscki makers

the babushka picture

Oh we all donned a babushka before sitting down to eat.

the spread

 Belvedere vodka is Polish vodka We kept cold in the front yard snow bank.

Belvedere vodka

I think that is a lovely picture worth advertisement in a magazine eh?

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Dandelion Blossoms

dandelions on table

Dandelions. For me growing up I thought they were cute little flowers that popped in the lawn. I hated when they turned to seed, I loved them when they were pretty yellow. Of course, we didn’t fertilize our lawn so they were everywhere.

You are starting to see more about dandelion health benefits these days, most notably with dandelion root tea. It is a tea that provides natural detoxification benefiting digestion and liver health.

So why dandelions? Why now? Well today is Mother’s Day and my mother passed about three months ago. I was sorting through books and came across this binder of recipes from my home county that belonged to my mother. There was date or year noted in the book but I am guessing it was circa late 1960s, early 1970s. My mother never contributed recipes to this cookbook but she referenced it quite a bit.

cookbook

Near the end of the book was this recipe for Dandelion Blossoms. I was taken aback, really dandelions?  I am sure my mother never attempted this recipe and we as kids, would’ve turn up our noses at it.

recipe

I did find Dandelion Fritter recipe. The website was a little more dainty with the dandelions than I was.

soak em

setting it up

fry em

long view of dish

close up of dish

Patty’s Points:

1) Make sure you don’t have allergies to dandelions before you eat them. ALSO make sure there are no fertilizers used in the area you pick your dandelions. You can also  grow them from seed  in your own backyard or indoors.

2) I used a Louisiana Fish Fry for the dry ingredient, lemon-spiced. I could barely tell I was eating dandelions. My husband ate one. My son thought they were mushrooms; I didn’t tell him any differently.

3)  My mother was fearless, in my eyes, when canning produce from the garden: pickled beets, cucumber relish, bread and butter pickles, and tomatoes. I admired that about her.  This recipe was adventurous for me. I’m sure my Dad would think I was a little crazy to eat dandelions. I probably won’t tell him I made these.

Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you Mom.

God took the fragrance of a flower, the majesty of a tree,

The gentleness of  morning dew, the calm of a quiet sea,

The beauty of the twilight hour, the soul of a starry night,

The laughter of a rippling brook, the grace of a bird in flight,

Then God fashioned from these things, 

A creation like no other,

And when His masterpiece was through,

He called it simply…Mother.

Herbert Farnham

Fried Green Tomatoes

We had a hail storm in July that hit our garden, wiping out the cucumbers and bruising the rest of the garden plants. That storm delayed the fruits of our garden so we were so surprised at the mother lode of tomatoes, albeit unripened tomatoes. I have never made fried green tomatoes, so this opportunity could not be passed without giving it a freshman try.

I am not from the South where these are a common staple. The movie from 1991 Fried Green Tomatoes comes to mind, which was on the CMT channel last night. My favorite line in the movie is when Kathy Bates rams the vehicle of two young girls who steal her parking spot at the Piggly Wiggly: “We’re younger and faster” the girls taunt and KB’s character replies “I’m older and have more insurance” I’ll have to sit down and watch it from beginning to end again.

After scouring a few cookbooks I found a recipe in the Mount Vernon (yes George Washington’s estate) cookbook cooked in bacon drippings, but then I went to the internet and found Paula Deen’s Fried Green Tomatoes with Vidalia Onion recipe. The YouTube video of Paula making this dish was a good tutorial as well. Usually this dish is made in July or early August with the first of the fruits on the vine. With the second snow storm of the seasoning whirling outside, this was a flashback to the feeling of summer.

I altered Paula’s recipe by adding a cornmeal dusting. So the breading went in this order: buttermilk, seasoned flour, buttermilk, then cornmeal.

I have such a fear of frying so I put the oil in a deep pot so if the oil splattered it would be far away from me and my skin. It didn’t take very long to crisp up, like 2 minutes each side.

The fried green tomatoes were good enough alone. The Vidalia onion relish was a little too much for me, sorry Paula 😦