Skip to main content

Book Review: From a Polish Country House Kitchen

 

My experience with Polish cuisine has been less than satisfactory, but until I visited Poland I assumed this could be blamed on lackluster American copies of Polish originals. I’d tried pierogies from the frozen section of the supermarket and kielbasa from Hillshire Farms and neither suited me. When I tried a fresh kielbasa prepared by a Polish housewife at an upstate New York church supper in the late 1990s, my theory was reinforced. This,THIS kielbasa wasn’t smoky or salty, it was sweet and rich and delicious hot off the grill. I dreamed of going to Poland one day to taste more of this meaty perfection and to sample the rest of what I was sure would be fantastic cuisine.

I finally visited Poland in late 2011- Krakow and Warsaw both. I eagerly stood in line at the Christmas Markets is downtown Krakow to taste authentic kielbasa. Guess what, it tastes exactly like Hillshire Farms! Sidenote: I contacted that Polish housewife when I returned to the states and she confirmed that fresh (not smoked) kielbasa is not the standard variety most people associated with Poland. I’m not a fan of that smoky flavor so it didn’t work for me at all. Over the next two weekends I ate my way through Krakow and Warsaw and other than one batch of mushroom pierogies from a dimly lit cellar restaurant, I could not find even one authentic Polish dish that I enjoyed. Clearly traditional Polish food and I are not compatible. I am an avid cookbook collector and like to frequently add to my collection with authentic cookbooks highlighting local ingredients and cuisine from my recent travels but I was so turned off by Polish cuisine that I did not bother to purchase a Polish cookbook during or upon returning from the trip.

So it was to my surprise that as I thumbed through From a Polish Country House Kitchen at a bookstore one afternoon, the recipes and the beautiful photography that accompanies them whetted my appetite. Here were almost a hundred recipes from Annie Applebaum, living in Poland, utilizing local and well known Polish ingredients (cucumbers, beets, fish, cabbage, etc) as well as some traditional Polish culinary forms (pierogi) but in ways I had not seen before.  Applebaum provides several recipes that are simple twists on Polish classics and yet many more that are reminiscent of the Polish larder while simultaneously betraying a cross cultural influence. This was Polish food, reimagined; this was Polish food I could get behind.

So far from the book I have sampled ‘Mizeria Dziadka Benjamina’ (Grandpa Ben’s Cucumber Salad), ‘Kotlet Schabowy’ (Wiener Schnitzel, Polish Style), and ‘Nalesniki’ (Rolled Pancakes with Jam). All of the recipes were clearly written, easy to follow, and Applebaum provides a short introduction for each describing the history and inspiration for the dish. I especially like that many recipes have both English and metric measurements provided.

While I admit I will probably find excuses to avoid attempting some of Applebaum’s recipes that seem to come a little too close to traditional Polish cuisine for my tastes (Beet Soup? No thanks.) there are many recipes I can’t wait to try such as Braised Cabbage with Wine and Nutmeg as well as Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Cognac Sauce.

I would think this cookbook would be an especially lovely gift for American expats living in Poland who need to lean heavily on ingredients available in Polish markets.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Brass Birmingham

Here’s a story of a lovely lady (spoiler: it’s me) and her pride and how it has led to the discovery of the single greatest board game I have ever played. It’s probably also a good primer for other reviewers on increasing your reach.At GenCon this year, I was perusing the wares of the various booths and my eyes caught a glimpse of two beautiful game boxes. Each had crisp metallic lettering with an old world feel and artwork that radiated European class. I made my way to the booth and waited patiently to speak to to the team manning it as there were many buyers lined up to purchase the games. I didn’t know anything about the games (Brass Birmingham and Brass Lancashire), or the publisher – Roxley Game Laboratory – but I knew I wanted to review one or both of the games. Almost every board game love story I star in in can be summed up this way: I am seduced by the artwork or theme and then I stay for the right mechanics. When the lead rep spoke with me, he gently rejected my request. He …

Board Game Review: Brass Lancashire

A few months ago, I fell in love with Brass Birmingham (you can read that review HERE). I fell hard. It was an all time top 10 best games ever kind of love and so when Roxley Game Laboratory offered to send me Brass Lancashire to play and share my thoughts, I was a bit hesitant.  Is there even a chance I could enjoy it as much as Birmingham? Lancashire was the original game designed by Martin Wallace, and while it’s been updated for the most recent release, I was concerned it might prove to be an older, tired version that couldn’t compete with Birmingham.

My concerns were unfounded. Brass Lancashire is fantastic. Playing Lancashire after playing Birmingham is a bit like dating someone and then dating their sibling. Sure, there’s a resemblance, but the kissing feels different.
The artwork for Brass Lancashire is beautiful, radiating a classic style evocative of the theme (industrial era production). The artists have shown great attention to detail such as the raised gold lettering on …

Board Game Review: Paper Tales

I received a copy of Paper Tales from Stronghold Games in December. My husband had expressed interest in the game, so I put it on my play list, knowing nothing about it, but trusting his judgement. When the game arrived, I was delighted with the clever artwork featured on the cover, which features a collage of illustrated figures set against a white background for contrast. It really stands out and is a striking example of paper craft.  The cards inside the box carry the same style of illustrations and are also intended to be reminiscent of paper craft, specifically, paper layering. It reminds me a bit of the style employed in the video game The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker. Fun fact: I actually took the time to look up the details on the CGI used in Zelda and I found out the designers used cel shading to give the artwork “a characteristic paper-like texture.” It’s pretty amazing when an artist can employ a technique that so perfectly evokes a style as intended that even those who aren’…