Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Warming Away The Winter Winds

(early february. number 37.)

My most vivid memories from my visit to Poland in December are of food experiences. The numerous times I ate 'hot cheese' and cranberry sauce sold by old ladies hunched over in ancient squares, followed by hot, spiced wine… Eating pierogi served up by our host Scotia on the first night, nearly midnight, having just come in from -15º C streets, the warm potato and cheese comforting my travel weary body and mind… Paying the equivalent of 75¢ to slurp scalding, delicious mushroom soup from a lunch counter café with all the local students.

See more photographs of my polish adventure by scrolling down a ways here:

Lucas's family is of Polish origin, so this food has always meant a great deal to him– and some of his most formative cooking experiences were in this mode. 

Deep, dark winter–– my already fervent nostalgia for, and Lucas's lifelong love for, this particular food––– made this Secret Restaurant a natural, necessary beginning to this year of cooking. 


A recipe for Gluwein, the German-style version of Europe's hot red wine, mainly because it is tastier than Poland's version. I made this with Egrit Hungrarian red table wine, simmered with blood oranges studded with whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and more cloves. 


Replicating the "hot cheese" I ate at the Christmas markets in Krakow this December. The little single portions are served from hot grills with dollops of cranberry sauce. This cheese, oscypek, was impossible to find here in Portland. So, I recreated the cheese by melting down other smoked cheeses, shaping individual cheese bites in the candy mold we have, letting them cool, then smoking them myself with applewood chips in the backyard, the frosty morning before this dinner. The pieces were heated up in the cast iron dutch oven prior to serving. Served with a cranberry sauce I had made/froze at the height of cranberry season. 

My having had the combination of hot, salty cheese with sweet/tangy cranberry sauce, accompanied by hot spiced wine in the middle of a medieval market square in the snow was the inspiration to do this whole meal. Everyone seemed to "get it."


Every Christmas Lucas's family makes this traditional Polish mushroom soup. We used black trumpets, winter chanterelles, and shitakes. Finished with sour cream. Served with little whole rye breads from the german grocer. 


1. Red cabbage and purple carrot slaw- lightly pickled & dressed. 
2. Slow roasted beets, deliciously simple with butter, salt & pepper.


Three kinds, three toppings. 

Ruski (potato + cheese)
Vegetarian Kielbasa 

Sour Cream (with added fresh horseradish)
House mustard (from Eidelweiss German Grocery, they know what they are doing with mustard. Made with black pepper and beer.)
Caramelized onions 

I spent part of three days making the vegetarian sausage from scratch. It contained rendered vital wheat gluten, red lentils, oats, mushrooms, roasted garlic, many spices– most notably hot hungarian paprika. 

We worked like three Polish grandmothers to produce the dough and fillings for all these pierogis over the course of three days as well. It was madness! 

Jarztna (root vegetable flower)

Turnip, rutebega, red potato, yam, japanese sweet potato, and parsnip fancy cut, dressed in butter + salt + pepper, arranged in a fan shape and roasted until tender with blackened edges. There to soak up the extra sauces and provide complimentary texture to the pierogi. 

Ciasto (little almond cakes)

Inspired by a recipe in Nigel Slater's new 'The Kitchen Diaries II," where he takes idea from/improvises recreating a cake from a bakery in Oslo, Norway. Sofie did these with tiny blueberries and golden raspberries from her yard, as well as white currants I'd gleaned/froze this summer. Lots of almond. Powdered sugar snow. A kind of heaven.