When a food item is served à la polonaise, that means it is garnished with buttered breadcrumbs, hard-cooked eggs, and sometimes parsley.
The Culinary Term's Origin
The term is French and literally means "in the Polish manner" or "Polish style." When used in the culinary sense, it is a term for garnishing usually cauliflower and asparagus with buttered breadcrumbs, chopped hard-cooked eggs and chopped fresh parsley.
But foods other than cauliflower and asparagus can be prepared à la polonaise. For Poles, usually the hard-cooked eggs and chopped parsley are left out. Stuffed eggs get the buttered breadcrumb treatment and the sugar snap peas I enjoyed at Warszawa Restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., also were served with buttered bread crumbs. Another example is the green beans paired with this Hungarian Stuffed Beef Roulade Recipe that also are served à la polonaise.
What's All This 'à la' Stuff Anyway?
For the most part, French à la and au terms mean either a method of cooking something, a way of serving a dish or a side garnish on the plate. Consider pie à la mode, for example. This refers to a way a dessert is served (with ice cream). And then there are the terms à la grecque (in the Greek style) and à la Florentine (meaning that spinach is one of the ingredients). Check out this à la Cooking Terms List for more examples.
All Romance-Language Countries Use the "In the Style of" Device
France isn't the only country to use the à la and au convention. In Italian, for example, you would see Caponata alla Siciliana (eggplant in the Sicilian style) and, in Spanish, Gambas a la Plancha (shrimp grilled on a metal plate). In Polish and other Slavic languages, the adjective follows the noun with no preposition inbetween, so French puff pastry would simply be ciasto francuskie.
Alternate Meaning of à la Polonaise
Not to Be Confused With the National Dance
When used as a noun, Polonaise is one of the five national dances of Poland, along with the Mazurka, Kujawiak, Krakowiak and Oberek.
Pronunciation: ah lah poh-loh-NEHZ
Examples: My sister-in-law is allergic to eggs so we left them off the cauliflower we garnished à la polonaise.