TST, Vol. 9, Issue No. 26/2002

by Robert Strybel

Polish Lent: Beyond the Fish Fry
The Friday fish fry is well known across Polonia, and Lenten pierogi sales (on-the-spot suppers and take-outs) are not uncommon. Below are basic recipes for those two items as well as suggestions for other Polish Lenten dishes that are not as widely known in today's Polish America.
FRIED FISH (ryba smazona): Rinse and pat dry 2 lbs very fresh (fresh-water of ocean) fillets, salt well, drizzle with lemon juice and refrigerate covered several hrs. (Optional: Fillets may be interpsrsed with onion slices.) Rinse and pat dry fillets, dredge in flour, dip in egg wash and roll in bread crumbs, shaking off excess. Fry in hot oil to a nice golden-brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper before serving.
Rather than typical American mainstream go-togethers such as tartar sauce, cole slaw and french fries, give your fish fry an authentic Polish touch by providing prepared horseradish or horsradish sauce, boiled potatoes and sauerkraut salad.

HORSERADISH SAUCE (sos chrzanowy) -- Fork-blend 1/2 c mayonnaise with 1/2 or 1/3 c prepared horseradish (depending on potency desired). Season with a spinkle of lemon juice and sugar to taste.

PIEROGI, HOME-MADE (pierogi domowe) -- Set a large pot of lightly salted water on high flame. Sift 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 c flour onto board and sprinkle with 1/2 t salt. Deposit 1 small egg at center and use knife to mix outlying flour into egg. Gradually add app. 1/2 fairly hot water in a thin stream and 1 - 2 T salad oil and work mixture by hand into a dough. Knead well until dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to hand. On lightly floured board, roll out thin 1/3 of the dough, leaving the remainder under a warm inverted bowl. With drinking-glass or biscuit-cutter cut dough-sheet into rounds. Place a spoonful of meatless filling just off center of each dough round, cover filling with larger dough flap and pinch edges together to seal. Drop small batches of pierogi into boiling water so they can float freely without crowding. When boiling resumes, reduce heat to gentle boil and cook 5 - 10 min., testing 1 for doneness. (Cooking time varies depending on size of pierogi, thickness of dough and type of filling.) Remove with slotted spoon and serve at once with topping of choice: melted butter, Butter Beads or equivalent, butter-browned bread crumbs, chopped onions browned in oil, sour cream or plain low-fat yogurt.

SAUERKRAUT-FILLED PIEROGI (pierogi z kapusta) -- Rinse, drain and chop rather fine 1-1 lbs sauerkraut. Place in pot, scald with boiling water to cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook covered 30 min, then remove lid allowing excess moisture to steam away. Brown 2 chopped onions in skillet in several T oil in skillet. Add to sauerkraut together with 1 mushroom cube. Season with pepper and simmer 20 min, stirring occasionally. If all moisture has evaporated, add a little boiling water so sauerkraut doesn't get scorched. Drain well in sieve, pressing out moisture. When cool, used to full pierogi.
CHEESE & POTATO PIEROGI (pierogi "ruskieÓ, z serem i kartoflami): Cook 1-1/4 lbs peeled potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain, mash and set aside to cool. To potatoes add 1/2 lb farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese, processed to a ground-like consistency in processor, 1 med. finely chopped onions sautéed in 2 t oil until tender and lightly browned. Mix ingredients well and season with salt & pepper, and (optional) a pinch of ground dried mint leaves.

POTATO-FILLED PIEROGI (pierogi z kartoflami) -- Cook 1-1/2 lbs peeled potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain, mash and set aside to cool. Chop fine 2 med. onions and cook in 3 T oil until golden, tender and lightly browned. Combine with potatoes, salt & pepper generously and fill pierogi with mixture.

CHEESE-FILLED PIEROGI (pierogi z serem) -- Combine 1-1/4 lb farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese, pulverized to a powder in food-processor, 1/4 t salt, pinch of pepper and 2 eggs into a smooth filling.
Variation: Add 1 t lemon juice and 2 t sugar.

PIEROGI, STORE-BOUGHT (pierogi kupione) -- If you lack the time, emerge and know-how to prepare pierogi from scratch, you may find fairly good ones commercially available, some hand-made the Old World way by women from Poland.

PREPARING SALT HERRING (przygotowanie solonych sledzi) -- Soak 4-6 salt herring in a sinkful or large pan of cold water 24 hrs, changing water 2-3 times. If your they have come with the heads attached, cut them off and discard them before soaking herring. Carefully remove the skin and backbones from the herring and discard any loose fishbones you see. Slice the herring into 1 or 1-1/2 pieces.
Note: Nowadays lightly salted herring fillets (Matjes type) are available which are much easier to prepare.

PICKLED HERRING (sledzie marynowane) -- Cut the herring prepared as above into 1-1-/2Ó pieces and layer with wafer-thin small onion slices in a jar or crockery bowl. In pot combine 1 c 6% distilled vinegar and 1 c water (for zippier herring use 1-2/3 c. vinegar and 2/3 c. water), 1 bay leaf, 6 peppercorns, 2 grains allspice, 1 t mustard seed and from 1 heaping t to 1 heaping T sugar. Bring to boil and simmer covered on low flame 10 min. Switch off heat and let stand until cooled to room temp, then pour over herring. Seal jar or cover crockery bowl and refrigerate at least 24 hrs before serving.

HERRING IN OIL (sledzie w oleju) -- Into a jar or glass bowl pour a little salad oil, add a layer or herring (soaked as above), then a thin layer of chopped onion, and keep layering until ingredients are used up. Top layer should be chopped onion. Top up with oil, seal and refrigerate. Let stand in fringe at least 24 hrs before serving. They will keep in the fringe a week or longer.

EASY HERRING (latwe sledzie) -- A short-cut way is to get marinated herring that come in jars and proceeds as follows:
-- pickled herring: serve the marinated herring just as they come from the jar with plain boiled potatoes on the side. Optional: Discard any onions that come with the herring and intersprse the herring with small fresh onions sliced wafer thin.
--herring in oil: drain a jar of marinated herring, discarding onion and spices. Cut herring into serving-size pieces, usually 1 - 1-1/2Ó in length. Plunge into a large pot of cold water and keep them in it several min. Drain in sieve or colander and allow to drip dry. Alternate layers of herring and chopped onions in jar or bowl and drench with salad oil. Refrigerate over night before serving.
Note: Creamed herring are considered too rich to serve during Lent.

RYEMEAL SOUP, LENTEN (zur postny) -- Bottled zur (ryemeal liquid) is now available at the Polish delis. If you want to make your own combine in crock or glass jar 1 c rye flour or 1 c rolled oats or 1 part of each, 1-3 buds sliced garlic and 1 bay leaf. Drench with 4 c pre-boiled lukewarm water and stir vigorously until lump-free. Cover mouth of container with cheese cloth fastened with rubber-band and let stand in warm (75-80F) place 3-4 days, or until liquid becomes pleasantly tart. Stir and pout immediately through colander into another jar or through a funnel into a bottle. To make your soup, combine 4-5 c vegetable stock (traditional or bouillon-cube-style) with about 1-2 c ryemeal liquid and bring to boil. Simmer briefly and season with salt, pepper and marjoram. Thicken with 1 heaping T flour dissolved in a little cold water, if desired, and bring to boil.
Note: Mushroom cubes provide an excellent base for this soup (use 1/2 a cube or less per 6 c soup.). Serve over cubed farmer cheese or Krakow style with a plate of mashed potatoes garnished with fried onions on the side.

LENTEN GARLIC SOUP OUT OF NOTHING (zupa postna z niczego) -- Mince and mash 2-3 buds garlic with 1/4 t salt. Place garlic paste in soup bowl, drench with 1-1/2 to 2 c boiling water and enjoy. A pinch of pepper and a drop or 2 Maggi seasoning (as well as a pinch of chopped parsley and/or dill) may be added. This unusual soup can be made one bowl at a time as needed, so you needn't prepare a whole pot. It may be eaten with rye bread on the side or stale rye-bread cubes or oil-fried rye-bread croutons in the bowl.
Note: A tiny piece (1/10 of a cube) or mushroom bouillon will greatly improve the taste.

BREAD & WATER SOUP (zupa chlebowa na wodzie) -- For each serving cut 1-2 slices rye bread into cubes and fry in 1 T oil to a nice golden-brown on all sides. Salt & pepper hot croutons, place in soup bowl and scald with 1-1/2 to 2 c boiling water. May be served with boiled potatoes (garnished with oil-fried chopped onions) on the side.
Note: Adding a tiny piece (1/10 of a cube) or mushroom bouillon will greatly improve the taste.

BEER SOUP, LENTEN (postna polewka piwna) -- In pot place 1-1/2 c rye or whole-wheat bread (or some of each) with crust removed and crumbled or torn into small pieces. Add 1 qt beer, 1 c water, 3 T margarine, 1/4 t salt, 1 t sugar and 1/2 t bruised caraway. Bring to boil and simmer 2-3 min. Strain, forcing bread through sieve with wooden spoon into another pot. Bring to boil again and season additionally to taste with salt & pepper if desired. Serve over cubed farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese and or dry rye-bread cubes or croutons.
Note: This soup was once eaten by many mainly during Lent, because in Old Poland beer was considered a beverage rather than an intoxicant that should be given up when fasting. Fell free to prepare with non-alcoholic beer, if you like.

LENTEN SAUERKRAUT SOUP, FAST-DAY (kwasnica postna) -- Drain, rinse and re-drain 12 oz sauerkraut, chop coarsely, place in pot, add half a bay leaf and 3 grains allspice, cover with 6 c water and 1 mushroom cube and cook until tender (at least 1 hr, preferably longer). Separately cook 4 med. potatoes and drain. When cool, dice and set aside. In 3 T oil fry to a nice golden-brown 2 - 3 chopped onions. Add to pot the fried onions, diced cooked potatoes, 1 bud crushed garlic and 1/4 t caraway seeds. (Optional: If you prefer a thicker soup, stir in 1 or so T flour dissolved in 1/2 c water.) Bring to boil, simmer briefly and salt & pepper to taste. Serve with rye bread on the side.
Variation: Add 1 c drained, canned chick peas midway through the cooking.
Robert Strybel
ul. Kaniowska 24, 01-529
Warsaw, Poland
* How Polonia in US celebrates Easter
* Easter: Trendy or Traditional?
* The Polish swiecone spread
* Easy swiecone for beginners

TST, Vol. 9, Issue No. 26/2002

The Summit Times

© Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski