This recipe for bigos makes a hearty, long-simmered meat-and-sauerkraut stew that goes back centuries and is a national dish of Poland.
It was traditionally served at the start of the hunting season, from fall through Shrove Tuesday, or until the family's supply of barrel-cured sauerkraut ran out. Today, it's enjoyed year-round.
Any combination of game, beef, pork, poultry, and vegetables work. This recipe is just one version. Bigos also is an excellent way to use up leftover cooked meats and for the family hunter's quota of venison. You can also prepare bigos for a large gathering like a game day!
- 1 cup prunes (pitted)
- 1/2 ounce Polish borowiki mushrooms (dried or dried Italian porcini mushrooms)
- 2 cups water (boiling)
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat (or vegetable oil)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 small head cabbage (chopped)
- 1 pound sauerkraut (rinsed well and drained)
- 1/2 pound smoked Polish sausage (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1/2 pound fresh Polish sausage (cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 pound meat leftovers (any type, boneless, cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 3 large tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
- 1 cup dry red wine (preferably Madeira)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
Place prunes and dried mushrooms in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the prunes and mushrooms and let them steep for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened. You can chop the mushrooms and prunes if you wish, but leaving them whole makes for a chunkier dish. Set aside with soaking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or a large pot with a lid, sauté onion and fresh cabbage in bacon drippings or vegetable oil.
When cabbage has collapsed by half, add the sauerkraut, sausages, leftover meat, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, and reserved mushrooms and prunes and their soaking liquid. Be careful not to include the sandy sediment in the bottom of the soaking bowl.
Mix well and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Turn heat to low and simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding liquid as necessary to prevent burning.
When ready to serve, remove bay leaf. Portion into heated bowls and garnish with a piece of frisée or other fancy greens to resemble the feather in a hunter's hat.
- Pass a bowl of whole peeled and boiled potatoes at the table.
- The longer this cooks, the better it tastes, and it's even better served the next day.
- This recipe is a natural for outdoor cooking in a cast-iron kettle winter or summer.
- The dish lends itself well to potlucks and tailgate parties and slow cookers and freezes well.