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: Shoot Cows

Saturday afternoon at GenCon I came across a demonstration of Shoot Cows getting started at the designer’s booth. The little cow cards looked interesting, so I volunteered to participate and within 5 minutes we all had the rules down. I picked up a copy for myself and vowed to play it within a week. Yesterday I did just that. My husband, myself, and our 13-year-old daughter gathered around our gaming table at lunchtime for a quick game.
Opening the box and examining the cards, I found them to be of average thickness. Not impossible to bend, but thick enough to stand up to repeated usage. The artwork inside the box compliments what’s on the cover – a black and white cow palette that fits the game’s theme.
I don’t often delve into step-by-step gameplay in my reviews (too complicated; read the rules) but as the rules and play for Shoot Cow are rather simple, it’s reasonable to given them some coverage. Two survivor cards are distributed to each player and put face up in front of them, si…

Spirit Island Jagged Earth Preview: A First Look at the New Kickstarter Expansion from Greater Than Games

Exciting news this week! The Spirit Island Jagged Earth expansion launches on Kickstarter October 16th, 2018. I had the chance to preview and play this upcoming release from Greater Than Games multiple times this week, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Update: the Kickstarter is live here.


Our Spirit Island collection keeps growing. First there was the base game, which debuted in 2017 and turned the traditional narrative of the conquering colonists on its head, allowing players to take on the role of island spirits determined to keep the colonists at bay through any means necessary to preserve the serenity of the island. My husband and I picked up the game at retail (having missed the Kickstarter window) and fell in love with it immediately, enthused to work together as powerful spirits and put the invaders down. Next, we added the Branch and Claw expansion. This expansion (also part of the original Kickstarter) expanded the board, added new spirits and powers, new blight card…