Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bigos - Polish Hunter’s Stew

This is a very traditional Polish dish. It used to be prepared by hunters when they would go on long hunting trips. It would start out with just the basic base and as they caught meat, they would toss in various pieces of meat. It is one of those dishes that keeps well and seems to get better every time it is reheated. It is a little unusual, or rather exotic, for North American taste buds, but still quite good.

1 Jar of Sauerkraut
Cabbage, sliced and diced (optional)
Olive oil
1 small can of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced very fine
Whole peppercorns
1 bouillon cube (your choice of chicken, vegetable, or beef. I prefer beef in this case)
Mushrooms (optional)
Garlic, crushed (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Sugar (to taste)
Vinegar (to taste)


These are very much to taste.  The fun thing about this dish is that you can really add in any cut of meat, or even type of meat that you want. It is a good idea to fry up the meat, and or bake it, or boil it, before you add it to the base, to counteract the strong acidity of the sauerkraut.  I will use a standard batch of ingredients for the purpose of this recipe, but feel free to experiment a little and have fun! This is also a great recipe to make when you have to use up cuts of different cuts of meat from the freezer and fridge.

1 hunk of bacon; cubed and baked or fried till crispy
1 lb of sirloin, eye of round, or beef roast, cubed and rubbed with salt and pepper.
1 string of Kielbasa sausage (if you like spicy sausage you can also try chorizo or Kabanos. Or all of the above)

1.       Drain the sauerkraut and rinse with cold water. Add to a large pot and cover with water.
2.       Bring to a boil, then strain out the water again. Repeat twice more, straining out the two batches of water, and then keeping the third.
3.       Lower heat to a simmer, add bay leaves, bouillon cube, and peppercorns. Sauté the onions and add to the pot. If adding mushrooms, sauté with the onions.
4.       If you prefer a dish that is less acidic overall, you can fry up some plain cabbage over a low heat and add to the pot with the sauerkraut.
5.       Let simmer.
6.       Fry up the bacon and sausage until crispy, and add to pot. Keep simmering.
7.       Brown the beef, and add water to skillet. Let simmer in the water for at least an hour, maybe two, until the meat is cooked through and at desired tenderness.  Pour the meat and the water into the pot.
8.       Let the whole mixture simmer together for at least half an hour. The sauerkraut should be soft and cooked.
9.        Add the can of tomato paste. Add the salt, and pepper to taste. If it tastes a little too acidic, add some sugar. If you want it more acidic, add some vinegar. This part of the recipe is really about personal preference.
10.   Once everything is seasoned to taste, remove the bay leaves and serve. Watch out for the peppercorns!

Serving Tip: It is usually a good idea to serve this stew with some bread to help mop up the bowl and sauce

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