In a country where vodka is king, which to me signifies some pretty hardy citizens, it should come as no surprise that one of Poland’s national dishes is a meat dish called Hunter’s Stew (or bigos as it’s known in Polish). You have all the Polish food groups represented in it-pork, kielbasa, and sauerkraut too.
I’ve always been interested in Polish culture, on both a personal as well as a research interest level due to the book that I’m writing (the characters are Polish). Well, and being a quasi-food blogger, food is obviously going to play a role in my book even if it is historical fiction. I’ve also always contemplated getting the bigos from Pittsburgh’s Polish food store (S & D Deli in the Strip District) but generally have stuck with the homemade pierogis (not anymore though).
While certainly if a dish tastes good it can be enjoyed at any time of the year, being a rich and hearty stew, this would be great on a cold winter’s night. However, if you’re like me, you can also enjoy it on an unseasonably mild spring day too.
It’s not a terribly difficult recipe, although you want to make sure you have adequate time since some of the steps do require longer cooking and simmering times. I’m not a huge sauerkraut fan but the bitterness of it is really muted by the flavor of the stew. Served with a side of pierogis you have an authentic Polish meal on your hands.
Hunter’s Stew (Bigos)
Recipe adapted from Saveur
Carton of white mushrooms
4 oz. bacon, cut into 1⁄2″ pieces
1 lb. boneless pork spareribs, cut into cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz. smoked kielbasa, cut into 1″ rounds
1 tablespoon allspice
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp. flour
Can of sauerkraut, drained
3 cups beef stock
1⁄2 cup Marsala wine
2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
Minced chives, to garnish
Place mushrooms in a bowl; cover with 1 1⁄2 cups boiling water. Let sit until mushrooms rehydrate, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a cutting board; roughly chop and set aside. Slowly pour soaking liquid into another bowl, leaving any sediment in the bottom of the first bowl; set aside.
Heat bacon in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat; cook until its fat renders, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high; working in batches, season spareribs with salt and pepper. Add to pot; cook, turning, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate with bacon. Add kielbasa; cook until browned, about 6 minutes; transfer to plate.
Add allspice, onions, and bay leaves; cook, scraping bottom of pot, until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add sauerkraut, and cook, stirring, until slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Return meat to pot along with reserved mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and then add prunes, stock, and wine; bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add apples, and cook, covered, until pork is tender, about 30 minutes more; garnish with chives.