Saturday, December 31, 2005

Polish cooking (Operatic bigos, also known as hunters� stew )


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Polish cooking (Operatic bigos, also known as hunters� stew )

Author: Lechu

Operatic bigos, also known as hunters� stew

An outstanding meal
Is bigos, because it is composed of vegetables.
One takes shredded sour kraut
Which according to a proverb, is mouthwatering
Cooked in a pot, where it embraces
The best, carefully selected pieces of meat.
And it is cooked, until fully relieved
Of its juices that spill over. (�)

Bigos was kept in pots. It�s hard to describe in words
its wonderful taste, color, and marvelous flavor.

No other dish was awarded the unmistakable honor of being featured in our National Poem, �Thaddeus� by Adam Mickiewicz.

Understandably, at each Polish home bigos is served frequently. While at most homes women are in charge of cooking, men often take pride to make bigos. Maybe because it is believed to be even stronger in its properties than the famous �Spanish fly�? Maybe our readers will share their stories on bigos with us?

We have our own secret recipes, and are skeptical about the quality and taste of bigos served at other people�s parties. And when we say that �somebody made bigos� we mean this person screwed things up.

In old times bigos was stored in the cold for weeks. In the pre-McDonalds era bigos fed travelers on their lengthy trips. At the end of a hunt bigos was a must. The most known varieties of bigos are called rascal�s, hunter�s and Lithuanian. Now we will learn from Alexandra (Ola) how to make an operatic version of bigos. The recipe is unique. So is its author.

Ola, the mezzo-soprano, is sharing her busy time between forensic studies and operatic performances. Between these performances she always finds time to prepare bigos. She feels that the meat is critical, since its variety in bigos provides her voice with its outstanding strength. It is also believed that the cabbage is also important, since it allows Ola to reach the high �C� note. �C� comes from the �C�abbage, of course.

Let�s go back to our operatic bigos. Take a large pot, really large since bigos has a tendency to spill over. Add the following to the pot:

- meats, any amount, but typically around one pound each, of cubed pork and beef, floured, peppered and fried until golden. When available any game meat may also be added;
- one pound of sliced Polish sausage;
- three pounds of sour kraut (liquid discarded), briefly fried;
- one head of white cabbage, shredded;
- three sliced, golden fried onions;
- two cups of water;
- two small cans of tomato sauce;
- salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaves.

Cook slowly, mix frequently, for at least three hours. From time to time add some red wine, to replenish water that evaporated.

Typically, for each glass of added wine, the cook drinks two glasses. Under these conditions after a while we are ready to start singing operatic arias. Traditionally, sopranos sing an aria from �Halka�, by Polish composer, Stanislaw Moniuszko: �In the morning sun�� Mezzo-sopranos, like Ola, often choose the aria of Hedwig, from �The Haunted Manor� by the same composer, �I am running, and listening to the forests�� Since there are no bigos� arias available for altos, they are entitled to some extra wine instead. Tenors are known for their preferences for the aria �La donna e mobile�� from �Rigoletto� by Giuseppe Verdi, baritones prefer the polonaise aria from �The Haunted Manor� by Moniuszko � �One of my daughters, who will give her heart��, while the basses are recommended not to sing while cooking, since very low voices are known to turn bigos sour. If after completing of several arias, the bigos is still not ready we may invite other family members, friends or household pets to practice dances from (preferably) Polish operas. Dogs are known to enjoy mazurkas, while cats definitely prefer polonaises. Birds do not enjoy dancing. If we have any household birds, we may consider them as a delicious addition to our bigos, enriching its flavor.

While the bigos is cooking, we are stirring it from time to time, singing and dancing, but after a while we may feel tired of this operatic cooking. That means that the process of operatic bigos making is complete. The next day, when the bigos in our large pot has cooled down, and we are recovering from a hangover, it is time to transfer it to big jars, and keep refrigerated for at least two days. Bigos may be reheated several times. While bigos matures in the cold, we have time to expand our operatic repertoire to be ready to make another batch of operatic bigos.

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