You Can Call Me Svetlana

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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20 Responses to “You Can Call Me Svetlana”

  1. Erin Clare says:

    I am SO glad you posted this. My grandmother was Polish and had some great recipes. Over the years they have been lost, one by one.

    And…I just bought a slow cooker for Nate. Of course if he reads this the cat is out of the bag!

  2. foodrenegade says:

    Oh this looks fantabulous! This will definitely be on the menu this weekend. Speaking of which — wondering why you use Pam spray? Why not just stick with a good, high-temperature oil like ghee, tallow, or coconut for the browning?

    Off topic — My husband helped an older lady at church this week clean out her garage. As payment she gave him an old, but never used tandem bicylcle! We have had so much fun riding to do our errands with our kids in tow behind us. I didn't know I could have so much fun on a bike. :)

  3. Melicious says:

    I posted this recipe before I saw the light and increased my fat intake. I've been on a rambling road for about 18 months, learning how to eat properly after a lifetime of being overweight and thinking low fat/high carb/super cardio was the road to happiness.

    Thanks for pointing that out; I'm going to update the recipe right now.

  4. Addi says:

    Scavenging for recipes to make for an anniversary dinner on Thursday – you had me at icy vodka and Glamazon. Pretty sure this is the winner.

  5. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    I hope you like it! Let me know how it turns out!

  6. Michele says:

    We made this the other night and it was a big hit. I have a 13 y.o. who isn't fond of cabbage, but thanks to the meat content was happily gobbling it up. Another success! (we also made the sunbutter sauce, but used almond butter – it was very very good on grilled chicken). Thank goodness for you!

  7. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Michele –> So glad to hear you liked the bigos! Did you read the poem aloud before eating?! :-)

    Thanks for the tip on almond butter in the Sunshine Sauce… I have to try that!

  8. Anne says:

    Wow. We made this tonight (yeah, I know, we’re weird – we like stew during the summer and we just made your chili for about the 10th time!) and it is so good. I’m intrigued about doing a version of this when we’re not so strict about our diet (maybe during the winter) but in any case this recipe is GOOD GOOD GOOD. We are going to make a trip to Penzey’s before long too since we are sorta in the neighborhood (northern Virginia) and they should send you a thank you note after our visit ’cause I know we’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from you all along!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for taking the time to let me know you liked it! It really is great for cold nights — or, ya know, a hot summer day :-)

      Have SO MUCH FUN at Penzeys. I bought a huge pile of stuff the last time I went. Be sure to sniff the cumin!

  9. Jackie says:

    Made this dish on Monday ate it last night…My loving partner requested that I comment about how much she absolutely LOVES it!!!! She had it for supper and then another serving as dessert…

    • Mel says:

      I LOVE seconds for dessert! Reminds me of when I went to a Mark Sisson seminar… he was talking about how weird it is that our culture eats a sweet meal after a full meal, and then he said, “My idea of dessert is another lamb chop!”

  10. Pam says:

    This stew was amazing! My mouth has been watering ever since I read the recipe a week ago. Today was perfect weather in Denver for this dish. Thank you for such a easy and delicious recipe!

  11. […] Bigos (hunter’s stew) from The Clothes Make the Girl […]

  12. Natalia says:

    Hi Melissa:)! What types/cuts of meat & lamb are best to use in this recipe? Just not sure what to ask the butcher for – thanks!

  13. Natalia says:

    Thanks! Any particular type for lamb?

  14. Florence says:

    Oh my this conjures up childhood memories. I grew up eating bigos and its one of my favourite dishes. My aunt gave me her recipe about 25 years ago. The last line states “bigos is best on the third day”. Can’t wait to start paleo/Whole30 and try your rendition of bigos and lots of your other fabulous recipes!

    • That’s awesome! I read online in my research that the third day is the magic day. I *just* reworked this recipe for my Paleo Magazine column, and it’s even better. I’ll be sharing that one later in the fall. Happy cooking!

  15. Diana says:

    I am so excited I am making this today! Got all my ingredients yesterday and can not wait to fill my house with the yummy smell!

    This brings back SO many memories. My family is 100% polish so we have it all the time, however I have never attempted to make it

    I have a question about the apple. Does it add tartness/sourness or sweetness? My family has never put the apple in !

    Just curious :)

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