Polish influence has been thrust upon me this past year -- its culture, politics, history and more importantly its food. Polish cuisine isn't exactly at the forefront of culinary stardom - bland and stodgy - pierogies and sausage are all that comes to mind. But it doesn't have to be. Bigos is far from bland, it's fun to make and a pleasure to eat, it's a stick to your ribs dish. Much needed on these cold winter nights.
Bigos, or more commonly known this side of the Atlantic as Hunter's Stew is the national dish of Poland, comprised typically of cabbage, sauerkraut and pork. The rest is up to you. It can be as interesting and flavorful as you would like it to be. In this version I used smoked Kielbasa and Canadian ham, although traditionally any leftover meats you have can be used. Be sure to always include the Kielbasa, it gives it a rich smoky flavor the dish is known for. To bulk it up I added potatoes, which I'm sure will draw some ire from traditionalists, but it would seem lost without it, Bigos to me is a meat and potatoes dish. Throwing in a dozen or so juniper berries produces a wonderful aromatic flavor, think peppery fresh pine cones and gin. I'll say it again slowly. Gin! It's a great compliment to the meat.
- 2 12 ounce smoked Kielbasa sausage, peeled and sliced
- 6 ounces Canadian ham, chopped
- 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 cabbage, chopped
- 1 large jar sauerkraut
- 3 large carrots, shredded
- 1oz dried porcini mushrooms, hydrated and chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounce can, tomato sauce
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 12 ounces dried prunes, pitted
- 3 bay leaves
- 12 juniper berries, crushed
- 2 tsp all-spice
- salt & pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
In a large pot cook the sauerkraut and cabbage on medium heat stirring often, the cabbage will become soft and lose a lot of its water, about 10-15 minutes. The water and the juices from the sauerkraut will form the base of the liquid for the stew. Add in the carrots and porcini mushrooms and stir. In a separate pan cook the onions in a little extra virgin olive oil until translucent, add in the garlic and stir. Mix in the Kielbasa and Canadian ham until hot. Scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the meat mixture to the cabbage mixture and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the chicken stock and cook on a simmering heat, covered for 15 minutes. To the stew, stir in the tomato paste, crushed juniper berries, bay leaves and all-spice. Cook for another hour. Meanwhile, in the pan with the meat drippings saute the potatoes until slightly soft and turning golden brown. Add the tomato sauce and red wine to the cabbage, stirring heavily. Remove the bay leaves. Gently stir in the potatoes. Cook for at least another 30 minutes up to 2 hours, depending how impatient you are. 30-minutes before serving stir in the prunes. Season to taste. This is a dish where its flavors will develop and enhance over time, great for a cook ahead meal or a big batch for work lunches.