Wow! I’m not sure that I’ve ever made a dish that had accompanying poetry before! But here’s the literary condiment for the recipe I’m about to share:
Bigos is no ordinary dish,
For it is aptly framed to meet your wish.
Founded upon good cabbage, sliced and sour,
Which, as men say, by its own zest and power
Melts in one’s mouth, it settles in a pot
And its dewy bosom folds a lot
Of the best portions of selected meats;
Scullions parboil it then, until heat
Draws from its substance all the living juices,
And from the pot’s edge, boiling fluid sluices
And all the air is fragrant with its scent.– Pan Tadeusz (1834)
I found a receipe for bigos — a.k.a., hunter’s stew… a.k.a., the national dish of Poland — in a crazy ’70s cookbook I inherited from my mom. Traditionally, the stew was made with wild boar, pheasant, and venison, and back in the day, it was only eaten by the aristocracy because they were the only ones who could afford to include so much meat in one dish.
I’m a proud carnivore, and it sounded like a good meal to eat when it’s cold and blustery outside — plus, the recommendation is that it be served with icy vodka. Even though I’m not drinking these days, the IDEA of frozen shots and warming stew is appealing.
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 2-in. cubes
2 large onions, diced, about 2 cups
2 large apples, diced, about 2 cups
1 large head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons allspice
1. Sprinkle the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat some cooking fat (whatever your favorite fat might be) in a large skillet or Dutch oven and sautee the meat in batches ’til it’s evenly browned on all sides. Transfer to a slow cooker.
2. Heat oil in the same pan and add onions and apples. Sautee until the onions are translucent and slightly browning on the edges. Add to slow cooker and mix well with the meat. Add broth and allspice to the slow cooker and mix well.
3. In the same pan, briefly saute cabbage until it has a few brown spots, then add to the slow cooker. DO NOT MIX. Keep the cabbage in a layer on top of the meat.
4. Cook on high for 5-6 hours.
5. Eat! Drink! Be merry!
You Know How You Could Do That?
1. No slow cooker? You can make this in a big pot on the stove. Increase the broth to 2 cups and when you get to step 3, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Let it simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is really tender. Proceed to eating and drinking and merrying.
2. Instead of allspice, I use Penzeys Tsardust Memories or the Sunrise Spice from Well Fed 2. It’s spicy-sweet and makes the kitchen smell like the holidays… or like a Glamazon named Svetlana might appear, wearing a tall fur hat and shiny black knee boots, and stab you with a hypodermic needle filled with truth serum while knocking back a shot of frozen Stoly.
4. You can also add about 1/4 cup of red wine to the slow cooker if you want to make it taste a little richer. Lamb is also a good addition for the same reason.
Intrigued? See what Wikipedia has to say about bigos.
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