Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recipe for Comfort

Last week turkey kielbasa was on a GREAT sale at my local grocery store. So I threw some cabbage in my cart and let my mouth water over the plans to make one of my all-time favorite comfort foods: Polish Haluski (pronounced ha-loosh-kee). When I was growing up in North-East PA, this dish was on every single buffet line of all our church dinners and special events. There's a large Polish community in that part of Pennsylvania and lots of yummy recipes have made their way into this Irish-Italian cook's kitchen!

Traditional Haluski doesn't have kielbasa in it (or really any meat for that matter) but I love me a one-dish meal so I take liberties. It's been unseasonably cool here in our neck of the woods, and this dish was just perfect for Saturday's family dinner.

Here's the link to the recipe I used as a reference (Haluski - Cabbage and Noodles), but really, it's a "cook by touch" meal for me. The recipe was just a refresher as it had been so long since I'd made a huge batch like I did on Saturday.

First, boil and drain a 16 oz. bag of extra-wide egg noodles. Toss them with a light sprinkling of olive oil to keep them from sticking. Pour the noodles into a deep casserole dish that has been generously sprayed to prevent sticking.

Thinly slice all the kielbasa (or even smoked sausage) that you are using for your meal and brown it up gently in a lightly sprayed, deep skillet. If you are using light kielbasa or turkey kielbasa, it's wise to add a bit of olive oil to the pan to prevent sticking or scorching. It also helps to generate some drippings and thus some depth of flavor. You can also use a touch of chicken broth if you prefer. When the meat is nicely browned and the bottom of the pan is darkened up, pour the slices and the drippings over the noodles and let them sit together for a while longer.

Then, add equal amounts of olive oil and butter back into to your deep skillet. Saute an onion that has been roughly chopped until the pieces are soft and translucent. Add several cloves of freshly pressed garlic. I tend to have a heavy hand with the garlic for this meal, but you do what tastes right for you. Generously salt and pepper the mixture as the garlic softens. While you are cooking the onions, be sure to get up all the dark bits of flavor that are clinging to the bottom of the pan from cooking the meat.

Add a head of cabbage that has been roughly chopped. My sister-in-law recently used bags of pre-shredded coleslaw mix and I think that is just BRILLIANT! A time-saver for sure if you don't mind the slight addition of expense.

Once all the cabbage is softened and beginning to turn a lovely golden color, it's time to put it all together. Pour the cabbage and onion mixture over the noodles and kielbasa. Be sure to get all the good flavor that is sticking to the pan, even if you have to go back to the stove and add a touch of new butter or olive oil to the empty pan to deglaze it a bit. That flavor and the added moisture is crucial to a great haluski!

Mix the whole kit and kaboodle together very well. If you are prepping it right at dinner time, then you can go ahead and serve it as soon as you mix it all up if you wish. Or, sprinkle it generously with black pepper and cover the whole casserole tightly. I sprayed the inside of my foil to prevent sticking. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes at 325, so that the flavors can all blend and absorb into the noodles.

I particularly like to make this meal early and utilize the "delay start" feature on my oven. The flavors and ingredients get to hang out all day together since nothing in it will spoil if left in the waiting oven. I set it and then forget it till dinner time!

I typically serve this meal with a big green salad and some hearty bread. Though, certainly the bread is not necessary with all those noodles.

One of the reasons I love this dish so much is that it is really easy to prepare and is made from very simple ingredients but it packs a major delish-factor-punch for everyone. Another reason, if I chop the cabbage small enough and take extra time to pull out the "ribs" of the outer leaves of the cabbage that tend to taste too strong for my littles, is that they are also getting some awesome nutrients that they don't normally choose on their own to take in. See, they all THINK they don't like cabbage. But this meal goes a long way toward proving their little theory wrong. {grin}

An added bonus to this particular Saturday night dinner is that my son's sweet girlfriend looooves ethnic dishes like this one. She's Latvian and grew up eating haluski and she really enjoyed sharing this dish with our family.

So tell me, what ethnic dishes or comfort food dishes are you looking forward to the most, as the summer winds down and your style of cooking changes with the weather? Leave me a comment or even a link and I'll come by to say hi!

1 comment:

c smith said...

I had no idea this was a traditional Polish dish! My Gram, a true southern red-necked gal, used to make this for family dinners all the time. I seem to remember that she added cream to it before baking. I'm glad you refreshed my memory, I'm adding it to my menu this week!