Polish Bigos (Hunter’s Stew)

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I just had the chance to revisit this dish, preparing it for a Chicago Culinary Historians gathering (fun!) Some call it Poland’s national dish–I call it delicious: a three-meat or more stew fragrant with caraway and bay leaf, red wine and sauerkraut. Reader Joan Spencer asked LRF to find one she remembered from the Chicago Tribune. We found that one and more. Putting elements of various bigos recipes together in true Polish tradition (there’s no one official version of this dish) here’s our own tasty rendition. Serve it on its own, or with fresh rye bread, butter and potatoes

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs beef shank meat, bone removed
  • 1 lb pork shoulder
  • fresh ground pepper and about 1 tsp salt (fresh ground if you have it)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped pretty finely
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 12-inch link smoked Polish sausage (We favor Krestyanskaya from Schmaltz’s European Provisions, Springfield, N.J.) cut into pieces
  • 2 14-oz cans Frank’s Sauerkraut, one traditional, one sweet-with-caraway, both rinsed and drained.(Note: if you really love sauerkraut, you can add a third can)
  • 1 Tbsp concentrated beef base (I use “Better Than Bouillon”)
  • 4 Tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can unsalted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 tsp caraway seed (to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika

Instructions

  1. Cut meat in bite sized pieces. Rub with pepper and salt. Set aside. Saute onions and apple in butter until very soft. Remove from pan. Brown meat in the drippings, adding another Tbsp of vegetable oil, as needed. When meat is browned, place meat, onions and apples in a large dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot.  Pour broth over: it should just cover all.  Bake uncovered at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Scoop out a cup of the hot broth. In a bowl, mix hot broth with 1 Tbsp concentrated beef base, chili sauce, wine and tomatoes (canned and fresh) and stir with sauerkraut and sausage into pot. Sprinkle with caraway and paprika, stir, and tuck a bay leaf in. Cook another 30 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes immediately. Or let flavors ripen and eat the next day.

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