The New Way to Make Old World Polish Food
With nearly a third of Polish immigrants to the US living in the Chicago area, it’s no surprise that the Polish food there is plentiful and leans toward the truly traditional. The dishes that make up this hearty cuisine are often rich in meat, butter, cream and potatoes, and are the kinds of slow foods that often require lengthy periods of preparation and cooking (and usually by someone’s babcia). But with today’s faster pace of life it can be a challenge to do things the old-fashioned way. That’s why Gosia Blicharska can’t live without her Thermomix®. It’s the not-so-secret weapon she uses to easily and quickly recreate her favorite dishes from her native country Poland.
For those who don’t know what makes up Polish cuisine, there are a few cornerstone items that show up often in the kitchen. Sausage is a staple, the most famous of which is smoked kielbasa, an ingredient often used to flavor soups. Cabbage is used to make golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls) and sauerkraut, and is a common addition to soups and skillets. Meat is plentiful, as is herring, and potatoes and onions are included in many dishes. Polish-style fermented pickles made without vinegar, called ogórek kiszony are a national favorite. And bread, whether it’s chleb (bread loaf) or bulka (rolls), is an essential part of the Polish table.
“There are a lot of bakeries in Poland, and we bake a lot, usually things like little buns for breakfast,” says Blicharska. “Breakfast is usually sandwiches, bread, yellow cheese, meat, sausage, ham, sometimes tomato. We’ll make sandwiches for the kids lunches, and we usually have bread with dinner.”
Since bakeries aren’t as plentiful stateside, she will use the Thermomix® to make fresh bread, which especially comes in handy in the winter, when a heavy snowfall could prevent one from leaving the house entirely.
The slow-simmered bigos, sometimes referred to as “Hunter’s Stew”, is considered one of the national dishes of Poland, and is Blicharska’s favorite. Made with cabbage, onions, meat, sausage and forest mushrooms, it’s an earthy, warming dish that is great for a crowd.
“It’s usually made for Christmas or other big events and it cooks for hours,” says Blicharska. “It smells so good, and makes you hungry when you walk into the house where it’s cooking. A lot of people make bigos in the Thermomix® because it only takes about an hour and a half maximum. My husband, he’s my taste tester, was surprised that it is still so good even with a short cooking time.”
Similar to Russian pelmeni and Ukrainian vareniki, filled dumplings called pierogi are an iconic Polish dish. The filling options for pierogi are endless: minced meat, sauerkraut, mushroom, and mashed potato are very common. But sweet options like blueberry or strawberry are also very popular. While the dough for pierogi only requires a few ingredients, the process can be tricky.
“No one makes [the dough] the traditional handmade way anymore in my family,” says Blicharska. “Pierogi dough takes only three minutes in the Thermomix®, and the texture is perfect. I don’t have to check the texture like I normally would. It’s consistent and it only varies depending on the flour you use.”
Much of the Polish community consists of practicing Catholics. After Sunday mass, the rest of the day is spent preparing and enjoying a traditional dinner that starts in the early afternoon. The starring dish is rosół, a chicken soup with noodles and clear broth that normally takes around five hours to prepare, but take less than half that time in the Thermomix®! Also on the table are kotlet schabowy (a breaded and fried pork cutlet), served with potatoes and topped with sauteed onions.
“We also usually have something sweet, like apple cake (szarlotka) or Polish cheesecake (sernik) using farmers cheese called twaróg,” says Blicharska. “Using the Thermomix® is perfect because you don’t have to check on it.”
While Thermomix® might not be the most conventional way of preparing Polish cuisine, it’s become somewhat of a tradition of sorts for Blicharska, whose mother began using the machine at home in Europe over 20 years ago.
“She would make bread and creamy soups,” says Blicharska, who now uses her own Thermomix nearly every day, and not just for Polish classics.
“I love to make tomato soup or cucumber soup,” she says. “It’s a great way to feed my kids with veggies, even when they’re being picky.”
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