Kielbasa and Cabbage

As I have written before, Mom’s Boiled Dinner was one of my favorite meals. Paired with fresh homemade bread and some lunchmeat for a sandwich, it was the perfect meal on a cold winter’s night. Kielbasa and cabbage is a good warm-weather dish that gives you that same wonderful combination of meat and vegetables cooked in one pot with only just enough broth to blend the flavors. There is plenty of meat, so you can skip the sandwiches.

Kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage, but there are varieties of sausage called Polish sausage that are not Kielbasa. Today most Kielbasa is found as a smoked cooked sausage, but this recipe uses the fresh variety, which Polish speakers call Kielbasa biala (White Kielbasa). White kielbasa must be cooked. The browned slices of sausage combined with the sweet onions and cabbage give this dish a unique, rich flavor.

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. Fresh Kielbasa
2 T butter, divided
1 1/2 cups sweet onion
1 small cabbage(4 to 5 inches in diameter)
3 or 4 medium carrots
2 or 3 medium potatoes
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. beef bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into thin slices and put them into a large skillet with a tablespoon of butter over low heat while you prepare the vegetables.

Cut off the stem and root ends and remove the dry outer layer of the onion. Chop it into a quarter-inch dice and set it aside in a small bowl.

Remove any damaged leaves from the cabbage and wash the head. Cut it into medium wedges about two inches thick and set them aside in a mixing bowl. Scrub or scrape the carrots, remove the stem ends and chop the carrot into half-inch slices. Peel and chop the potatoes into half to three-quarter-inch cubes. Clean and chop the celery into half-inch pieces. Put these vegetables together in a mixing bowl.

Raise the heat under the skillet to medium and fry the sausage until it is well browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it from the skillet to a bowl.

Reduce the heat and put a tablespoon of butter into the skillet. Add the onion and cook it until it is translucent but not browned. Add the vegetables, water and bouillon along with quarter teaspoons of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the skillet and steam the vegetables for ten minutes. Stir in the sausage, add a little water if necessary and replace the cover.

Continue cooking the meat and vegetables for about twenty minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in bowls with bread and a good beer

NOTES: You don’t need to peel thin-skinned new potatoes. If you have some of those tasty potatoes in your pantry, just scrub them well and chop them into pieces. It is easier to slice the sausage if it is partially frozen, but uniform slices are not important. Just be sure that the sausage is cut into small bite-sized pieces.

Mushroom Pie

I sometimes think that I owe my love of mushrooms to my father who claimed that mushrooms were poisonous. Since we ate them when they were hidden in my mother’s tuna noodle casserole and none of us died, I decided that my father had to be wrong at least about some mushrooms. Like many sons, I rebelled in small ways, one of which was to develop a craving for mushrooms when I became a teenager.

I ordered pepperoni and mushroom pizzas and spent the extra dollar to top our steaks with mushrooms when my prom date and I were having dinner at a local supper club. I liked the taste of mushrooms and knew that many were considered delicacies. Mrs. Hanus, our neighbor who picked wild mushrooms and cooked many dishes with them, told me when I was eight or nine years old that her parents used to sell some kinds of mushrooms for as much as a dollar a pound. I was impressed.

Mrs. Hanus added mushrooms to her pot roast and gravy, she made mushroom soup that didn’t come out of a can and she even baked mushrooms with buckwheat to make a kind of hot dish. Although I never saw one in her kitchen, I would not be surprised if she also made mushroom pies. I am certain that she would have if she had known this recipe.

If you like mushrooms as much as I do, and if you want to observe a Meatless Monday once in a while, this mushroom pie is a tasty choice.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 – 3/4 lb. mushrooms
1 large onion (3 to 4 inches in diameter)
1 medium clove garlic
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
Pinches of crushed red pepper and salt
1 cup mozzarella cheese
4 oz. Neufchatel or cream cheese
1 large egg
1 T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 nine or ten-inch pie crust

PROCEDURE:

Line a nine-inch pie plate with a pie crust. Here is my recipe for Plain Pie Crust

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Clean and slice the mushrooms and set them aside in a bowl. Grate and set aside a cup of mozzarella cheese.

Remove the dry outer layers on the onion and garlic clove. Slice the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Mince the garlic.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for two or three minutes, then stir in the vinegar, lemon juice, basil, oregano, red pepper and salt. Reduce the heat and continue cooking for four minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the onion and garlic in the skillet and cook for about
three more minutes over moderate heat. Remove the skillet from the heat to let the vegetables cool to a warm room temperature.

While the vegetables are cooling, blend the Neufchatel or cream cheese with the egg. Add the flour and milk and beat until you have a smooth batter.

When the vegetable mixture is cool, stir in the mozzarella cheese and spoon the mixture into the pie crust. Spread the cream cheese topping evenly over the vegetables and sprinkle the pie with grated Parmesan cheese.

Set the pie on a center shelf in the oven and bake for forty to forty-five minutes. Check for doneness at forty minutes. If a table knife inserted near the center of the pie comes out clean, the pie is done. If it does not, cook another five minutes or so.

Cool the pie on a rack for a few minutes before serving.

NOTES: You can use either white button or baby bella mushrooms, but I think that the bellas have more flavor. You could use half of each. Incidentally, baby bella is the more common name of the Cremino or Cremini mushroom in the United States.

Use a ten-inch pie plate if you use three-quarters of a pound of mushrooms.