…but I love a Hunter’s Stew. I am talking about bigos, which is an absolute staple of polish cuisine. It is considered our national dish, and as it's name suggests, it was traditionally served after hunting. I can bet that every single Polish person has had bigos at least few times! Everybody knows it! There are many versions of the recipe, everybody prepares it differently by adding their own secret ingredients, but the general rule is simple, you definitely need sauerkraut, meat, dried mushrooms, and wine (and about 77 other things) and few hours to cook it. I like to think that my preparation is pretty close to the original, but all I know for sure is that it tastes awesome. Justin is not as crazy about cabbage as me so I don’t make it too often, but my friend from work is a big bigos fan (well, he had it only once), and since I owe him a favor I decided to cook it for him. Hopefully I can pay my "debt" this way. It’s pretty easy to make, but I can’t really say it’s quick because the longer you cook it, the better it will taste. What you need is:
2-3 lbs sauerkraut (washed once with water)
½ head of fresh cabbage
1 large chopped onion
1 lb beef (the cheapest cut of meat, cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 lb cubed pork
1 link Polish kielbasa
1 cup dried porcini mushroom (soaked in water for an hour)
2 cup fresh mushroom
½ cup dried prunes (chopped)
4-5 bay lives
3-4 juniper berries
Salt and pepper
I told you the list of ingredients was long! Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or a large pot) and brown the meat, kielbasa, and onions. After the meat is brown add the sauerkraut, chopped cabbage, mushrooms (fresh and dried), prunes, and spices. Cook everything together for about 5-10 minutes, add wine (I usually add about half a bottle), and simmer on low heat for about 2-3 hours. What you really should do is cook it for 3 hours one day and then for another 1-2 hours the next day, but that's not really necessary, it’s going to be amazing anyways!
Man, does that taste like home or what? I don’t know how I did it, but it tastes exactly the same as my mom’s, which is amazing! It’s rustic, rich, and decadent, a little bit sour, a little bit sweet, and a little bit salty with lots of meat and tons of flavor. If you are a vegetarian you can skip the meat, but please do not call it bigos, because it pains my heart! If you remove the meat it’s still delicious, but it’s called a cabbage stew then and it has absolutely nothing to do with bigos. No matter how you prepare it, I’m sure you are going to love it!