bigos (polish hunter stew)

The Poles have frequently been the brunt of many FUDEM* racist jokes. This dish, however, is no joke. This recipe gains them the respect of the culinary world, for bigos* (pronounced BEE-goss), considered to be the Polish national dish, is a wonderful stew that is now enjoyed throughout Northern Europe and is becoming popular around the world.

It is a savory pot of cabbage and meat for which there is no standard recipe, as recipes vary considerably from region to region, from family to family, and from simple to elaborate. In Poland, it is traditionally served on the Second Day of Christmas. I made it first for an October dinner, and it was delicious.

Once when I made it, I substituted turnip greens for cabbage, because I didn’t have any on hand at the time. The result was good, but not as good as when made it with cabbage.

  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 4 oz Polish sausage, sliced into ½”pieces
  • 8 oz cubed pork stew meat
  • 2 tsp garlic, puréed
  • 3 oz onion, diced
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
  • 1 (10½-oz) can condensed beef or 10½ oz homemade consommé
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 slices bacon, nuked and crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp <salt>
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp caraway seed, crushed
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne chile
  • 1 dash bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 1 dash low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1½ tbsp cornstarch

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the Polish sausage and cubed pork and sauté in the olive oil until golden brown. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, fresh mushrooms, cabbage and sauerkraut. Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir until the carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown.

Deglaze the pan by adding the consommé and stirring to loosen all of the bits of food that are stuck to the bottom. Add the tomatoes, season with the bacon bits, bay leaf, basil, marjoram, paprika, <salt>, pepper, caraway seeds, cayenne, red pepper sauce, and low-sodium Worcestershire.

Heat through just until boiling, cover with a lid, lower heat to a bare simmer, and cook for 1 to 3 hours, until meat is very tender. Dissolve the cornstarch in the wine, pour into the stew, and bring to a boil. Let cook a few minutes until the corn’s starchy taste disappears.

Bigos is traditionally eaten with rye bread and potatoes, but I like mine just in a bowl, with garlic toast on the side.