Thursday, September 30, 2010

Report from the Deep Freeze: I HEART Bigos!

Yesterday I pulled a container of bigos out of the freezer and moved it into the fridge so I could have it for lunch today. Now it's lunchtime, and I'm in heaven.

 In case you don't recall, while reporting on Polish cuisine during week #49 of my "52 Cuisines in 52 Weeks" adventure, I made a big pot of bigos filled with beef, Polish sausage, sauerkraut and mushrooms. It's addictive stuff, and I love it cold. I just put it into a pretty bowl today so it would photograph better than in the deli cup I froze it in--and out of which I was eating it while standing in the open refrigerator door when it occurred to me I should tap out a blog entry about it. If it weren't in the 90s today, I'd heat it and have it with some mashed potatoes. But it's good to know that Poland's classic "hunter stew" is not only edible straight out of the fridge, but PRIMO served cold.

And here's something I already knew but that was reinforced for me today: When you make a big batch of something with the intent of freezing part of it, and it's something you know tastes better a few days after it's made, then wait a few days after you make it before you freeze it. This way it will be at the peak of flavor when you're ready to eat it, whenever that might be.

I neglected to include a recipe in the Polish cuisine blog entry, so I'll do it now. I apologize for the oversight. While there are many ways to make bigos--and as a hunter's stew it accommodates most any sort of meat you want to chuck into it--what follows is a good basic way to make it.


Soak 4 ounces of dried mushrooms in warm water for between 30 minutes and an hour, until they're completely hydrated. Squeeze water out of mushrooms and set them aside (strain any remaining grit from this mushroom broth and keep the broth to make soup another time).

While the mushrooms are hydrating, dice one large onion and set aside. Cut a pound of meat(s) of your choice into bite-sized pieces, along with two Polish sausages and 6 ounces of bacon.

Melt a tablespoon of lard (I used bacon drippings, but you can use canola or vegetable oil if you must) in a large, thick pot and brown the meat, sausage and bacon. Then add in the diced onion and cook until transparent. Add the mushrooms and a pound of strained sauerkraut to the pot and enough beef broth to cover it all. Sprinkle in some caraway seeds and a tiny bit of sugar. And a splash of red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Taste to see if it might need a bit more salt (the kraut and sausages may give you as much as you want) and season with salt and black pepper as desired.

Serve hot, cold or room temperature.

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