At this chily yet festive time of the year, I seek comfort in one of my favourite Polish dishes, which I plan to share with some friends, and I make this great cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms and meats sensation for this Special Dish for the Week:
Also known as the Polish Hunter’s Stew, bigos is a warming and filling dish from the old country. I try to get as close to the basics of unprocessed foods of the olden days as I can manage in modern day Canada, and even only at the 2nd day of cooking, the flavours have already intermingled and the meats have softened.
The following ingredients, with a few “Maggifications”, make up this hearty traditional dish:
- chopped and sautéed onion* and mushrooms*
- Onions, mushrooms and cabbage, with their surlfuric compounds, are some of the main anti-cancer foods.
- coconut oil, for sautéeing (a little more if using lean meats)
- stewed bison meat cubes (or shoulder pork), cut into bite size pieces
- sausage, cubed into bite size pieces (free of nitrites and other preservatives)
- small white cabbage*, thinly sliced in 4 cm long pieces
- at least 1 kg saurkraut, unpasteurised and fermented with salt (no vinegar)
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp plum butter, or 2 plums (optional)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- black pepper, to taste
- few small chunks of kelp, cut into thin small pieces (optional)
This dish can very well be made in a single large pot on the stove, or the onions together with mushrooms and the bison or pork meats can be sautéed separately, and added to the large pot once their flavours have intensified during sautéeing. The slightly softened sautéed meat, when cooled, is also easier to cut into smaller bite sizes.
The key to its success, however, is patience. It needs to stew over low heat for several days, adding water from time to time to maintain the stewy consistency (and prevent burning). It can be mixed with a large wooden spoon from time to time.
Once made, portions can be frozen and/or shared! It can be served on its own, with bread, or with mushed potatoes.
On this occasion, I serve it as a first course of a Christmas dinner party with a couple of friends. The main course is a delicious and interesting spinach quiche with a corn tortilla as the base in place of a typical quiche crust—my friend’s wheat-free invention. For dessert, which was so tasty that it was enjoyed before a picture could be taken, we served my friend’s apple and rhubarb crisp.