Wednesday, May 26, 2010

“S” Like Sandwich and Sandwich Spread

Sandwich is a very popular type of food preparation in Poland. Already in 1860, the author of the first famous Polish cookbook, Lucyna Ćwierciakiewiczowa, mentioned small tartines topped with baked venison, pâtés, hams, salmon and sardines, served on elegant parties.

Now, in Polish we use the word “kanapka”, which describes a sandwich made of two slices of bread with one or two fillings between them. It is also used to describe one slice of bread with a topping or several toppings, which is called an open sandwich.

One can find more sophisticated or expensive toppings in fancy stand-up parties nowadays too. But first of all, simple sandwiches, using ingredients that are with easily accessible, are served on a daily basis in nearly every Polish home. It is a fact that slices of bread topped with cheese, sausages, ham, pâtés, or spreads (curd cheese, other cheeses, eggs or smoked fish mixed with favorite ingredients and placed on a sandwich) and some vegetables is the most popular version of Polish style breakfast ("śniadanie"). In many homes, especially those where families follow the traditions, people often eat sandwiches for supper as well. This is due to the fact that “obiad”* is the main meal whereas dinner is not. Obiad usually is eaten between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Of course, the younger generations living in large cities often adopt different culinary habits, closer to those one can find in Western European states. They eat lunch in place of “obiad”, and a hot dinner as a main meal, which slowly replaces traditional Polish sandwich dinner.

I grew up on Polish style sandwiches. When I was a kid, breakfast usually consisted of open sandwiches. They were followed by a second sandwich, a closed one, which was eaten at school as a “second breakfast” ("drugie śniadanie" - as we say in Poland), around 11 am. This sandwich was prepared by the parents, was wrapped in paper and often accompanied by an apple. In the seventies and in the early eighties I did not know hamburgers, the only fast food I knew was French frites or hot dogs, but they were not served in schools (and I believe, they still are not).  Bananas were not available at that time, as they were luxury products. Oranges were usually coming from Cuba, and they were sour, green and often non-eatable.
In high school (or rather, lycée), a sandwich was as valuable as a U.S dollar because nobody would survive until “obiad” without one, and only a few parents were still preparing sandwiches for their kids.
Then, often the third set of sandwiches was served for dinner (in Polish “kolacja”), around 6 or 7 p.m.

At the beginning of the eighties, my family became the happy owner of a miniscule Fiat 126P (by the way, it had been stolen one day and found on the following day) and thanks to that, we could travel all over Poland during the holidays without using any trains, which were dirty and overcrowded. My mom was always preparing a provision of tens of sandwiches and hard boiled eggs.

Besides, sandwiches (or "canapés") were mandatory served not only at family meetings, but also on special occasions: birthday parties, name day celebrations (which are important in Poland, too), office’s conferences and trips. It was incredible, even a one or two hour train trip required extra food, and right after a train left a station, one could hear around rustling of paper coming from unwrapping sandwiches. Some older people kept this sandwich habit until today.

When I was working as a corporate lawyer in Kraków, we had been spending hours on preparation of due diligence reports outside the law firm, having sandwiches served for an early lunch, by local canteens. Fixing some businesses in public administration offices or courts’ administration buildings, I could easily notice that a sandwich, like a client, was an inseparable “part” of the office ambience, presenting itself proudly on plates next to a cup of tea or coffee, sipped all day long by office clerks.

In these circumstances, it rather is not easy not to have any sentiment for sandwiches. Well, I do not eat them, now, three times per day, like when I was a kid, but still quite often I have them at least for breakfast. As opposed to my French husband, who is a pain-au-chocolat guy, I prefer salty breakfasts and bread with savory toppings than tartines with fruit preserves. And when we’re travelling with our car from Paris to Kraków, I always prepare a whole box of various sandwiches.

The most popular topping for Polish style sandwiches is cheese and charcuterie: sausages and hams, tons of which you will find in every food store. I only wished that the quality of charcuterie (Poland has great traditions in preparation of smoked hams and sausages), did not become a victim of industrialization after the collapse of communism. Unfortunately, there exist thousands of industrially made hams and sausages with artificial flavors and chemical additions, meaning products of a lower quality. Good quality charcuterie costs a lot of money. Products from the best producers, using traditional methods, are very rarely available in shops, as usually most of their production supplies good restaurants.

And despite many chefs whose opinion is that sandwiches are like “a drug for a hungry crowd”, I like sandwiches. What about you?

Today’s proposition of sandwiches is based on other Polish flavors and ingredients: Polish style curd cheese (tvarog) which may be replaced by cottage cheese; this cheese is mashed and may be mixed with chopped ham, sour cucumbers, raw spring vegetables, crayfish, smoked fish, horseradish, fresh herbs and eggs (this is what we call spread – “pasta” in Polish). They usually are seasoned with some fresh herbs, salt, pepper, caraway and powdered paprika. You can mix all those ingredients according to your liking.

I prepared my sandwiches using professional rings, which I bought a couple of weeks ago since I really wanted to use them. However, do not think that I usually spend hours preparing sandwiches like these. I rather prepare them in a couple of minutes, mixing quickly my ingredients.

You will find below some ideas for Polish style sandwich spreads. In general, they consist of easy-to-find ingredients (except for crayfish and bryndza). The proportions that I am using are for 1 huge sandwich or 2-3 small ones. You can use this spread idea to make one layer simple sandwich (this is how I usually eat them), just topped with some chopped vegetables and herbs.
The method of preparation of spreads is very easy: in a bowl, just mix all ingredients until the mixture is homogenous. Finally, season with salt and pepper, or other spices, according to your taste.

I decided to play a bit with my rings and here you have three examples of double layered, a bit posh (that’s what I have heard), sandwiches.

I did not calculate any cost for these recipes. Usually you use a bit of this and that to do your sandwich.

Polish Style Sandwich Spreads

Cucumber – radish

2 heaped tablespoons Polish style curd cheese (to buy in stores carrying Polish or Russian food), or cottage cheese**
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
1 tablespoon radishes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled cucumber, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped
A few drops of lemon juice

Smoked Mackerel

3 heaped tablespoons smoked mackerel (or sprats or sardines)
1 tablespoon good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped green onions

Hard Boiled Egg – Horseradish

3 heaped tablespoons chopped hardboiled egg (1 big or 2 small eggs)
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
1 teaspoon shredded horseradish
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon finely chopped dill

Tomato - Bell Pepper

2 heaped tablespoons Polish style curd cheese (to buy in stores carrying Polish or Russian food), or cottage cheese**
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
½ teaspoon tomato concentrate
1 teaspoon finely chopped, fried onion
1 teaspoon red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 drops of Tabasco

Green Herbs

2 heaped tablespoons Polish style curd cheese (to buy in stores carrying Polish or Russian food), or cottage cheese**
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
1 tablespoon delicate mustard
1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped,
1 teaspoon fresh estragon, finely chopped
A few drops of lemon juice

Ham – Cucumber 

2 heaped tablespoons Polish style curd cheese, or cottage cheese*
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
1 tablespoon ham, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sour cucumbers (see page XX), finely chopped
1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped
A pinch of powdered chili

Bryndza  - Chives

2 heaped tablespoons Polish style bryndza cheese
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt or cream
1 teaspoon finely chopped, fried onions
1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped

Lemon – Estragon Dressing (best for crayfish, ham and salmon)
1 heaped tablespoon, good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh estragon (you can use dill)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon crème fraiche épaisse
A pinch of sugar

In a bowl, mix all ingredients until dressing is homogenous. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.
Green Polish – Style Dressing for Sandwiches (makes around 150 ml)

3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon shredded horseradish
1 egg yolk (hardboiled)
1 teaspoon mustard (preferably delicate)
1 tablespoon crème fraiche epaisse
1 tablespoon Polish style curd cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped (optional)
A few drops lemon juice
A pinch of sugar

In a bowl, reduce with a mixer all ingredients until dressing is homogenous. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Double Layered Polish – Style Spread Sandwiches (few ideas)

Cucumber-Radish Spread Sandwich with Hard Boiled Egg

Ingredients (in order of placement starting from a bottom):
1 medium slice of bread
2 tablespoons cucumber – radish spread
Few thin slices of fresh cucumber
1 hardboiled egg, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green herbs dressing
1 medium slice of bread
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
A few slices of radishes
1 coffee spoon scallions, chopped
A pinch of alfalfa sprouts for topping

Mackerel Sandwich with Tomato-Bell Pepper Spread

Ingredients (in order of placement starting from a bottom):
1 medium slice of bread (preferably whole rye)
2 tablespoons smoked mackerel spread 
1 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper
1 medium slice of bread (preferably whole rye)
2 tablespoons tomato – bell pepper spread
1 tablespoon chopped tomatoes
1-2 slices of smoked mackerel
1 teaspoon shallots
One or two pinches finely chopped chives

Crayfish Sandwich with Tomato – Bell Pepper Spread

Ingredients (in order of placement starting from a bottom):
1 medium slice of bread
50 g crayfish meat mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon-estragon sauce 
1 medium slices of bread
2 table spoon tomato-bell pepper spread
1 table spoon alfa alfa
1-2 scallions, chopped

* obiad – a main meal in traditional Polish culinary tradition – usually consisting of a soup, a second course (non-vegetarian and vegetarian dish)
**if you use cottage cheese, do not like yoghurt – it will be too liquid

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Is Not a Post For Those Who Do Not Like Beets. This Is a Post About One Soup That Should Become Famous.

This is a post for those who are beetroot lovers, like me. This is a post for those who do not measure the Glycemic Index or for those who do not care about the Montignac diet program. This is a post for those who adore dirty jobs and do not make faces once they have to peel red and bloody beets.

These bad beets are one of the most popular vegetables in Poland. In fact, they are so common that the word itself (beetroot – burak) has a second meaning which describes a peasant or a person who behaves primitively.

Beets are eaten all year round in my country. We, Polish people, pickle beets, for example, with garlic. Sour beet starter is the base for one of version of “borsht”, which is a one of the most popular soups in Poland, especially served with raviolis stuffed with ceps for the Christmas Eve. Warm beet puree is served traditionally as an accompaniment to meat dishes, for example, Zrazy.

Cold beetroot and horseradish salad called Ćwikła, is often served as an accompaniment to Easter dishes, in particular cold meats and pates. Young beets, with their leaves and stalks, which you can get only in summertime, are used for “botwinka” – a soup made out of young beets.

Those, who are familiar with Polish cooking, probably already noticed that I have not yet mentioned “chłodnik litewski” (in direct translation from Polish - “Lithuanian cold soup”), which is a soup traditionally eaten cold and which is always served in summertime. It is made from young beets, their leaves and stalks, sour milk (buttermilk or kefir), freshly chopped herbs and some raw chopped vegetables.

This absolutely tasty and vivid pink cold soup, in its today’s "luxury" version served with crayfish tails and quails’ eggs, is not less original and tasty than internationally known cold soups, for example Spanish Gazpacho.  

It is totally refreshing; slightly acid and having an extremely pink color. In summertime, in Poland, one can taste its more rustic version everywhere, meaning in every canteen, cheap and fast restaurants and other more sophisticated places as well. It is a huge, huge pity, that the soup is not known anywhere else in the world.

Well, why is this soup called “Lithuanian”? Probably because it came ages ago from Lithuania. As I already mentioned it in my Zrazy recipe, for ages, Poland was with Lithuania in a political union and that is one of reasons why we are influenced by its culinary traditions.

Nowadays the soup is so popular, that I do not feel any discomfort presenting it as one of typical, Polish dishes.

I prepare it very often in the summer, when young beets are available at every food market (at least in Poland, in Paris you will not find them so easily). There exist various ways to prepare this soup. However, you will always need young beets with their leaves and stalks, sour milk (buttermilk or kefir; or even natural yoghurt, if you cannot find any of the three products)). In old recipes it is advised to add a lot of fresh sour cream which, nowadays, may seem excessive because it is too rich. I add just a bit, and not always.

Then you have to buy cucumbers, fresh chives and dill (if you do not like dill, you can use more chives). A bit of something sour is advised – most likely, some Polish-style beetroot concentrate, or Polish-style sour cucumber’s juice. But remember! If you cannot find any of those ingredients, just add a bit of a fine vinegar (for example, red wine vinegar) or lemon juice, or just omit it (the soup will still be good!). A traditional version for this soup does not contain any garlic, but I know people who add some of it. Other people add chopped radishes and Polish-style pickled cucumbers, too.

Nowadays the most popular accompaniment to the soup is hardboiled eggs or potatoes. However, one could remember that one hundred years ago it was often served with cooked crayfish tails or some baked meat (for example, veal).

In my recipe, I bake one half of the beets and I use the second half to prepare the beet broth* (in my opinion, beets cooked in water lose a lot of their taste. I add the baked beets into the soup, cut into slices).

This is an exquisite version of the rustic soup - I recommend it to all of you who like beets! Bon appétit!

Cold beet soup (Chłodnik litewski)

Serves 4

1 l sour milk (or buttermilk, kefir or natural yogurt - to buy in food stores carrying Polish or Russian food)** 
100 ml crème fraiche (optional)
3 young beets (around 300-350 g), washed and dried (for baking)*
2 young beets (around 200 g), peeled, washed and cut into slices*
5-6 stalks of young beets, washed and cut into halves*
2 handfuls of young beets’ leaves, washed and chopped
3 small size pickling cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber, peeled, washed and chopped into very small cubes (around 200 g)
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or 100 ml Polish-style sour beet concentrate or sour cucumbers’ juice, but it is not so easy to buy) (optional)
8 to 10 hardboiled quail’s eggs (or 4 regular hardboiled eggs)
120 g crayfish meat (optional)
A pinch or two powdered sugar

Preheat your oven until 180 degrees.
Place 3 beets in the oven and bake them until soft, for about 30 to 40 minutes depending on their size (check if they are baked with a fork).
Remove the beets from the oven, let them cool down completely, peel them and cut them into cubes or slices and put aside.
In the meantime, in a pan, bring to a boil about 500 ml of water. Add the remaining raw beets and stalks and cook until completely soft. The beets broth will have a deep, nice color. A last, add the beet’s leaves to the broth and cook for another 5 minutes. You should have about 250 to 300 ml of broth.
Strain the broth, throw away the beets and, eventually, stalks (at least I do not eat cooked stalks, because I do not like them). Reserve the leaves. Let the liquid cool down completely.
In a large bowl, mix buttermilk with cream.
Add chopped cucumbers, beets leaves, dill and chives. Mix everything.
Then start to add slowly little by little the beets broth, mixing and controlling the color and texture of the soup.
Add the sour beet base or red vinegar (should you want to use any), season with salt, pepper, sugar and mix.
The color of this soup should be intense pink.
The soup should a bit thick, rich in ingredients.

Place the soup in the fridge for at least one hour.
Serve it cold with baked beets, eggs and crayfish meat.

Note: this soup tastes even better when served on the next day.

*You may, however, simplify this recipe by cooking slices of peeled beets, their stalks and leaves together in water. This is how the beet base is usually prepared.

**if you cannot find any sour milk, kefir or buttermilk, you can try to use natural, liquid yogurt.

Buttermilk: 2.20 €
Organic young beets: 3.90 €

1 pack of crayfish (cooked): 3,20 €
Quails eggs: 3.00 €
Chives: 1 €
Dill: 1 €
Cucumber: 1 €
Other ingredients: 1 €

Saturday, May 15, 2010

White Asparagus and Crayfish Cake with a Strong Polish Twist

The preface to the 1986 New York reprint of the very old “Polish Cookery” by Marja Ochorowicz - Monatowa starts with following words: “Poland, like France, is a country where people really know food. One can stop at a wayside inn in the countryside or at a modest restaurant in a working-class city neighborhood and be served a meal worthy remembering. Good food is a tradition….”

As far as I know, Polish Cookery by Marja Ochorowicz Monatowa, which contains 2200 rustic, peasants and bourgeois recipes, had been edited at the end of the XIXth Century, and was then reprinted several times before the Second World War. In the 1950’s, the book was translated into English and published in the United States. Last summer, I found the 1986 English reprint in a bookstore in Krakow, and I bought it straight away.

I agree that food plays an important role in Polish traditions; one of my friends noticed that the Poles “grignotent” all the time (especially, secretaries in public administration), and tables are weighed down because of the huge amounts of food, especially during celebration days. I would be, however more skeptical about stopping by at a modest restaurant, “just like that”, as written in the book. The reality of restaurants is not that simple and as nice as described in the preface to American edition of this old cook book. That’s why one should be rather cautious about credibility of the words cited above.

Today’s recipe contains crayfish.
In Monatowa’s book one can find tens of recipes with crayfish (soups, butter, sauces, terrines, pâtés and so on). On the contrary, few Polish cookbooks, edited after 1989, mentions crayfish - a popular ingredient in Polish cooking (mostly bourgeois) before the communist era. Probably this is due to the lost of our old culinary culture on the one side; and on the other – probably also due to poorer conditions of soft waters.

I do not eat crayfish often. Frankly, I eat them very rarely, although they are not so difficult to buy (in some grocery stores, both in Paris and in Krakow, one can find cooked crayfish). My first experience with crayfish was at the beginning of the eighties, when I was a kid. On our way back from the Baltic Sea to Kraków, we stopped over in the historical area of Mazury, which is known for its thousand of small and bigger lakes and forests. My parents’ friends owned a little house in a small village, close to a town called Pisz. My two memories from that place: night crayfish catching, and children’s secret visits at the old and abandoned Prussian cemetery.
Well, I do not remember so much from crayfish catching, except for the parents, wearing wellington boots, floundering in water at night. I remember also our parents dropping living creatures into boiling water. I came back to Kraków from that holiday with a small package of red crayfish shells, which I kept in one of my secret boxes for a couple of years, until I grew up a bit and started to collect other “treasures”.

Today’s recipe is my first experiment with a salty cake. Some time ago, I bought a nice, small Hachette book about salty cakes, hoping to bake one soon. I like salty cakes, but I did not know them when I lived in Poland. Not so long ago Polka and Anoushka presented beautiful salty cakes on their blogs, and I realized that my small book is covered with dust (girls, thanks for reminding me).
They are easy to do. Most of recipes use the same basic ingredients: flour, eggs, milk, yeast and cheese. The rest depends on your imagination and taste.
The season for asparagus will be finished soon, so I decided to use white asparagus this time (today’s post is my last one concerning asparagus). I decided to mix them with two other delicate ingredients, meaning crayfish and saffron, and to add a strong rustic touch to the dish, by adding some grated cheese, similar to Oscypek, that I got from Poland. It gave a nice smoked and slightly salty taste to the cake, but did not dominate it. You can use, however, any of your favorite hard cheese.
I used one half spelt flour and one half regular flour; the texture was a bit solid, so next time I will experiment with other types of flour.

White Asparagus and Crayfish Cake with a Strong Polish Twist

Makes one 24 cm long and 7 cm deep mold – serves a small crowd as a snack

250 g white asparagus
120 g crayfish, unshelled (unfortunately, I only could buy cooked crayfish)
60 g grated Oscypek, or any other hard cheese (preferably smoked)
2 pinch saffron stigmas
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Grated zest of half a lemon (organic)
100 g spelt flour, sifted*
100 g all purpose flour (you can use 200 g all purpose flour instead of spelt flour), sifted
3 egg yolks (you can use egg whites as well)
50 ml milk
60 ml whipping cream
50 ml olive oil
3 g dried yeast
15-20 g butter (for the mold)
Some extra olive oil

Start to prepare the white asparagus. Break or cut off the wooden dry part of them and throw them away. Peel delicately their stems. Cut the asparagus across into halves. Slice delicately the parts with tips along (they should be about 5 to 6 cm long). Cut the remaining parts across into thin slices.
Steam asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes or cook them for a few minutes in boiling water. Then strain under cold water and put aside.
In a large bowl, combine yeast with flour and pepper.
In a second bowl, pour the egg yolks. Whip them slightly. Add milk, cream and olive oil and mix. Add parsley, saffron and mix.
Add the liquid into the dried mixture and mix until it is homogenous. Add the cheese and mix. Taste. I do not advise to add salt if you are going to use a salty cheese. If you like your dough to grow more, leave it for around one hour, covered with a towel.
Prepare the mold: butter the inside and sift a bit of flour over it.
Divide the mixture into three parts.
Place the first part at the bottom of the mold and spread it equally.
Then place one layer of asparagus slices. Cover with the second layer of the dough but ensure that you do not leave any air bubbles.
Then place crayfish and cover with the third layer of dough. On the top of your cake, place the tips of asparagus and leftovers of crayfish. Cover them with a bit of olive oil, so they will not dry out while baking.
Bake in the oven, preheated to around 170 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes (cover the mold with aluminum foil, remove it after 20 minutes). The cake is ready when a wooden stick, put into the cake, comes out dry.
Switch the oven off, open the oven door a bit, and leave the cake inside for another 10 to 15 minutes so its surface will not drop down suddenly. Then remove the cake from the oven.
Once the cake is completely cooled down, remove unmold it.
It will taste best when eaten on the same day.

1 pack of crayfish (cooked): 3,20 €
250 g white asparagus: 1 €
3 eggs (organic): 1,20 €
Saffron (hard to say, I had it in stock)
Other ingredients: around 2 €
Oscypek : 1 €

*I redid the cake on Monday 17th, but this time I used all purpose flour (type 65). It was much lighter in texture, and it nicely grew (before baking, I let it to raise for around 40 minutes).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Green Asparagus and Polish Style Gnocchi (Kopytka) with Green Sauce

Wojciech Modest Amaro is a renowned Polish and creative chef, who wishes to make a revolution in Polish cooking and introduce it into the 21st century. He spent several years abroad, learning new techniques, gaining extraordinary experience and working in top European restaurants, like for example elBULLI in Spain, which for many years has been listed among the world’s top 50 restaurants. Instead of making an international career abroad, Amaro came back to Poland, dedicated his time to the promotion and a completely new presentation of Polish food. In brief: the application of innovative culinary techniques and the use of traditional ingredients. I agree with Amaro, who underlines that to some extent Polish people are culinary immigrants….because of our latest history, we have been separated from culinary memories about tastes, names of ingredients mentioned in old cook books, which nowadays do not ring a bell to many people ….Maybe, at least, one day we will have a first Michelin star restaurant in our country?
More about Mr. Amaro.

Today, something delicious with a Polish traditional touch, far away from Amaro, but with taste of spring (again asparagus, but the season is so short, that I could not resist another asparagus recipe). Something perfect for a cold weather, like today. Do you know “kopytka” – a kind of Polish potato-flour dumplings?  I will not be much mistaken, if I compare them to Italian “gnocchi”. Direct translation from Polish means “little hooves”. People hardly know about “kopytka”; their name is probably derived from their shape, which resembles little horse hooves. That is why they are called “kopytka”.
My comparison to gnocchi is not accidental. Some people consider these dumplings as a Polish equivalent to Italian gnocchi, although in Poland we always use all-purpose flour. This is a very rustic and cheap dish, a king of school cantinas and milk bars. The popular and traditional way to eat “kopytka” is with breadcrumbs fried with melted butter. However, they are excellent with meat (for example, Zrazy) or Chanterelles Sauce. In the neighborhood where I come from, they may be served with a local cheese,  seasoned with chopped green onions. Usually they are about 2 to 2,5 cm long and 1 to 1,5 cm thick. You can make them, however, bigger and thicker, or smaller – according to your liking.  You can add freshly chopped dill, parsley into the potato mixture. It is, however, not necessary.

My “kopytka” are served with sautéed green asparagus, and a green sauce, prepared on a base of dry white wine and shallots, with the addition of cream, butter and chopped parsley, dill and some blended asparagus. You can replace them with your favorite herbs (for example chives or basil). I sprinkled them with grated parmiggiano, regretting that I did not have at home ay Oscypek, which would go extremely well with this dish. Feel free to use your favorite hard cheese.

One important issue before you will go to your grocery shop and buy potatoes: not every type of potatoes will go well in this kind of preparation. You should choose potatoes with a high starch content, otherwise the potato puree, which is used as the kopytka “appareil”, will be too sticky and you will have to use much more flour. As indicated in traditional Polish recipes, the percentage of flour in potato puree should be about 20 to 30 %, but the actual amount much depends on the quality of the potatoes. Just in case, have some more extra flour than indicated in the recipe if your potatoes contain less starch.

Green Asparagus and Polish Style Gnocchi (Kopytka) with Green Sauce

Serves 4

400-500 g kopytka (see recipe below for 800 g of potatoes)
1 big shallot or 2 small ones, peeled and very finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon very finely chopped dill 
1 heaped tablespoon very finely chopped parsley
100 ml dry white wine
150 ml crème fraiche
500 g green asparagus 
1 tablespoon lime juice
50 g freshly grated parmiggiano or your favorite hard cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Start with the preparation of “kopytka”. You can prepare them in advance, even the day before and keep them cooked in the fridge (in such case, just heat them in boiling water for 1 minute prior to using them).

“kopytka” ingredients:
800 g potatoes, washed, in jackets
Around 200g all purpose flour (or as much as the dough will take – depending on the quality of your potatoes)
1 egg
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon very finely chopped dill (optional)

Cook potatoes in salted water until soft.
Then strain them, cool down a bit and peel them.
Reduce them to puree in a pot with a potato masher, while they are still warm.
Let the puree cool down.
Break the egg, add it to the puree together with ½ teaspoon of salt, butter,  dill (optional) and 150 g of flour to start with.
Mix all ingredients until the mixture is homogenous.
If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a little at a time.
On a working table, pour a bit of flour and remove the dough from the bowl and work it with your hands until it becomes smooth and cohesive, so it is possible to cut it with a knife.
If necessary, add a bit of flour.
The dough is ready when it does not stick to your hands anymore. Be careful: do not overdo it, otherwise its structure will be affected and it will become too soft and moist.
Divide the dough into three equal parts.
Form a cylinder or around 1 cm wide, flatten it a bit and cut diagonally into 1.5 cm long pieces. You may also make bigger kopytka – according to your liking.
Repeat the procedure with the remaining two parts of the dough.
In a large saucepan, bring to a boil 3 liters of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
Cook the kopytka in boiling water in batches. Once they rise to the surface of the water, boil them for more another 3 minutes (before straining them, taste one to check the cooking stage). Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked dumplings to a colander and drain. 
Should you want to serve them later, rinse them under cold running water, place them in a container and add a bit of melted butter to them, so they will not stick to each other.
Kopytka may be served the next day; you will have to heat them up for one minute in boiling water. You can also heat them up on a frying pan.

Preparation of the sauce and green asparagus:
In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil shallots with white wine. Reduce about half way and add the cream and cook over a low flame, mixing from time to time, until the sauce is slightly reduced – it will take about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the green asparagus. Cut off the wooden, dry parts of them and throw them away. If necessary, peel delicately the thicker part of their stems (I do this when green asparagus is really thick, because they do not cook well, although theoretically green asparagus should not be peeled). Cut the asparagus across into halves. Slice delicately the parts with tips along (they should be around 9 cm long). Cut the remaining parts across into very thin slices.
Heat up a frying pan and pour some olive oil. Once it is hot, add asparagus (both slices and strips) and sauté them for around 5 minutes over a high flame, until the asparagus are sautéed al dente but keep their green color. Salt and pepper generously.
Finish the sauce: add chopped dill, parsley, butter, half of the asparagus’ slices and the lime juice into the saucepan and blend the sauce, using a blender. Salt and pepper according to your taste.
Place the hot “kopytka” (previously heated up in boiling water or any other way you like) on your serving plates. Pour the sauce, add asparagus and finish by sprinkling the top with freshly grated hard cheese.
Bon appétit !

At the end of this day: Great thanks to Ewa from a blog called Delishh.  Ewa graciously awarded me The Sunshine Award . I am really grateful!   Please hop over and check out her blog for some yummy recipes and tasty ideas.

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