East of Paris Bookstore

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bigos -- Hunter Stew

Last week Mr. Wonderful cut out an article from The Wall Street Journal about Bigos - A Royal Ragout and handed it to me.  Bigos is a hearty stew made from root vegetables, mushrooms, shredded preserved cabbage, and a variety of meats [depending on what you snag during the hunt].  It is famous in Poland.  In fact, the last time we ate it was in Kraków, the medieval and early renaissance capital of Poland.

Kraków is a gem and mercifully escaped destruction in the wars of the 20th century. From the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill to the Cloth Hall in the central market place, there is much to see and explore -- all within easy walking distance. There is also much to eat!  We have stayed at the small, historic, luxurious Copernicus Hotel and have enjoyed its delectible restaurant. But for Bigos, we are ready to return to Pod Aniołami. The restaurant's name means "under the angels" and comes from a decorative cherub faience set in the wall above the entry door.  In other words, you enter by going "under the angels" and then proceed downstairs to an early renaissance courtyard followed by a series of dining rooms.  Even though Bigos is a winter dish, we ate it in the heat of summer in the shade of the courtyard.
One of the tricks to a good Bigos is to serve it the second or third or later day, when the flavors of the ingredients have merged. I did not have the time to gather the ingredients [forget about hunting] and to make a proper Bigos before the start to Great Lent.  It is also a dish best made in quantity, so for the two of us, we'd have Bigos for days if I were to make it. Thankfully, Polana provided the perfect solution by shipping frozen Bigos from Chicago.

When Mr. Wonderful handed me that recipe clipping, I took it to mean that he wanted me to make Bigos. Perhaps he just wanted to fly to Poland and make a reservation at Pod Aniołami. But, it is February, and Mr. Wonderful will just have to make due eating Bigos in a southern California winter instead of the snows of Kraków.


He did not complain and had seconds of bigos.  Afterwards, we ate Poppyseed sweet bread, also sent from Polana, and drank hot coffee.

Polish Cooking, RevisedP.S., while the recipe in The Wall Street Journal is very good, my favorite is in Marianna Olszewska Heberle's book Polish Cooking. In fact, all the recipe's I've tried from this book turn out very well.

P.P.S.  a brief word about preserved cabbage.  Many eastern European recipes call for sauerkraut.  In eastern Europe, this is cabbage that has been stored in a brine solution and naturally fermented.  [Similar to the base cabbage in kimchi.].  It is not cabbage that has been soaked in a water-vinegar solution.  The latter is more crunchy and sour than the naturally fermented version.



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