Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 10, 2019

Polish Cooking Adventures… continued


By Ernest Barteldes 

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I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat any red meat and I also do my best to keep at least one meat-free day a week. To me that is not that “Meat Free Monday” advocated by many activists who even got a catchy ditty by none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Renata and I do Fridays instead, following a long-standing Polish tradition of not eating meat on that day as mandated by the Roman Catholic Church until Vatican II in 1966.  

We don’t keep Friday meat-free for religious reasons, though. The simple reason is that it is good to stay away from animal protein once in a while – it benefits the environment and also our health and after all there are dozens of very enjoyable vegetarian dishes out there, ranging from eggplant Parmesan to stir-fried vegetables with rice and many others that don’t come to mind right now.  

But one thinks of Polish food meat-free dishes do not immediately come to mind. After all, this is the land of kielbasa,  bigos and stuffed cabbage in the American mind but one would be surprised at how many vegetarian dishes there are in their cuisine – especially when it comes to pierogi and fried  pancakes, which have become a staple at our home on Fridays when we stay in – which is pretty common on cold wintry nights. 

The dinner pancakes might be a bit laborious, but the result is quite satisfying, since you can always refrigerate them and eat them later. Actually, they are not that different from the salted pancakes i grew up with in Brazil, which were usually stuffed with cheese, chicken or meat – except that over there folks gratin them with tomato sauce instead of frying them. Maybe the Brazilian pancakes were influenced by Polish cuisine in the first place, but who knows exactly where the tradition came from… which brings to mind the fact I haven’t done the Brazilian ones in ages.  

On the late Hanna Szymanderska’s Traditional and Modern Polish Cooking there are several offerings of pancake batters and stuffing, but here I reproduce the ones we use most often in our household -pancakes made in a beer batter and a simple sauerkraut and mushroom stuffing.  

 Beer batter pancakes in mushroom and sauerkraut stuffing

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Pancake batter

1 ½ cups flour 

2 ½ cups lukewarm lager beer 

2 eggs 

1 tbsp. Olive oil 

1 tbsp brandy 

1 tsp Italian seasoning 

  

Little Poland Stuffing: 

 

1 lb. Sauerkraut 

2 oz dried mushrooms 

2 oz grated cheese 

Sant and pepper to taste 

For frying: 

Olive oil to taste 

Two eggs, beaten 

Breadcrumbs 

 

Preparation 

Rinse the dried mushrooms and soak them in water, then cook them and drain. Chop the cabbage, and put it in a pan and put in the mushroom stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Add the cheese and let the mixture cool and set aside.  

Beat the eggs with the beer. As you whisk, add the other ingredients until there is a homogenous mix. Add more beer if pancakes are too thick and fry pancakes on both sides until firm. Stuff pancakes with mushroom mix and roll them enchilada-style.  Run them through beaten eggs and breadcrumbs and then fry in butter. Serve with a green salad and sour cream.  


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