My most prevalent Polish memories center around Wigilia, the Polish Christmas Eve celebration... though us spoiled American kids definitely kept those events from being authentic. (E.g. It's supposed to be a meat-free meal with many fish courses, but we all refused to eat fish, so meat it was.) However, that meal always* included oplatek (which I didn't know how to spell until I Googled it for this blog post), a trading of best wishes for the new year, straw under the baby Jesus, a chair for The Stranger*, so very many courses, pierogi, and chrusiki (*not always included but I really like the concept). These traditions live on as I've never missed a Christmas Eve with my parents, aunt, and uncle. My brother and cousins have missed the dinner occasionally but generally, every effort is made to attend.
In preparation for Christmas Eve, my parents generally take a trip to Hamtramck, the Polish neighborhood of Detroit. Hamtramck has seen better days, but there are still some really fantastic Polish restaurants and bakeries. When I'm able to go back to Michigan early, I get to join them for lunch at Polonia before stopping at the New Palace Bakery for chrusciki for Christmas Eve.
As I've been cooking more, I decided I should learn how to make more Polish recipes, both favorites and things I've never had before... though I'll probably avoid the recipes that call for blood. Like, there's literally a dish called blood soup. Um... no, thank you. When I told my mom, she bought me a copy of a little Polish cookbook she owned called Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans. Yes, it does include a recipe for blood soup.
|Golabki before it went in the oven.|
It wasn't pretty when it came out,
but it was delicious.
I spent some time reading through the book and marking the recipes I'd like to try. There were a lot. Here are the first three, all very traditional, and I hope to do more and try a few with my mom.
Yes, that is in a different font because I had to Google it. In English characters, it might be "golabki" or "gulumpkis." It's pronounced more like "gumpki." It's stuffed cabbage. Obviously as a snotty child I refused to eat this dish but as I've gotten older, I've grown to love it. It's basically Polish comfort food. It's also incredibly easy to make. I don't have much of a story to tell about it. I mixed the filling, stuffed the cabbage, and baked it. I'll definitely be trying it again, though I'll probably do a better job blanching the cabbage and possibly doing a double layer of the thinner leaves instead of trying to get one, strong leaf. Also, it said to layer bacon on top, which I did, but I'd probably skip that next time because it really just resulted in cabbagy bacon and really greasy (still delicious) golabkis. I have to give the tomato sauce topping a try too, which would likely negate the need for the bacon grease.
2. Dill Pickle Soup
That's right. Dill pickle soup is a thing and it's one of my very, very favorite soups. I love pickles, so one December when we were lunching at Polonia and I saw it on the menu, I was like, yep, trying that. It's one of the things that I decided I needed to learn to make, and OMG, it's so easy. And so delicious. There are only 5 ingredients: pickles, flour, butter, stock, and sour cream. I had a stock in my freezer, but I wasn't sure if it was any good, and I didn't want to risk not knowing if the soup was bad because the recipe was bad or the stock was bad, so I went with store-bought beef stock this time around. Next time I'll try it with my own stock. It was so tangy and pickley and made my taste buds so happy. I am definitely making this again. (No, I'm not going to address the levels of salt this soup has.)
I added the pickles for the picture to give it a little color and texture. It's generally just a creamy soup.
But I also then ate those pickles because they were delicious.
|Mushroom & Onion|
I wanted this classic Polish dish to be included in this list item, but I was sure it was going to be complicated and beyond my kitchen's capabilities. Nope. So easy. The dough had 4 ingredients, one being water, and the fillings range from simple to complex. I went with mushroom & onion and and cheese. The dough wasn't perfect. I'm new to dough, so I'm not sure exactly what went wrong. It was super watery and sticky, like basically just mud when I started. I used wheat flour because that's what I had, so that could have been the issue. Since it only took 5 minutes to make, I'll definitely try it again. The most time consuming part of either filling was chopping the mushrooms. If I had done it all at once, it honestly would have taken 20-30 minutes, start to finish, for fresh pierogiswith 2 different fillings. So happy I tried this.
These are usually my favorite.
I'll be playing with the cheese filling because
as you can see, it wasn't very dense.