(This was a very spirited contest: we had dozens of entries from home chefs around the country who took to the stove and braised up a storm. Winners will each receive a Calphalon Dutch Oven and a copy of Braise by Daniel Boulud and Melissa Clark.)
What we loved about it, continued:...and we also loved how she shares some alternative additions and changes to what is a very traditional recipe.
Bigos is a winter braise from Poland; it is a thrifty dish, some even say - a peasant's one, since it doesn't use fancy ingredients, rather some basic vegetables and smoked meats that's the staple of the Eastern Poland.
I've picked up the recipe while living in the region many years ago, from my neighbor upstairs Pani Vassylina. Now, the recipes vary, of course. The classic one, from my book "Polish Kitchen", lists chunks of raw meat (pork shoulder) as well as variety of smoked ones, and in addition to fresh cabbage - sauerkraut. Also, the use of tomato paste is considered a "modern" addition, since before introduction of tomatoes to the Polish table in 18th century the country cooked their bigos a naturelle, enjoying the look and aromas of various veggies and meats slowly braised together. I prefer my (or, rather, Pani Vassylina's) recipe; every time I make it it reminds me of the place and my years of living there.
Tatyana's Polish Bigos
Half-a-head of cabbage, medium size
4-5 peeled potatoes
Variety of smoked meats: smoked ribs, hams, pieces of various salami [tastes better if you mix pork and beef/veal]. Amount- to taste; see the 1st picture for illustration.
1-2 bay leaves
Heat the oil in Dutch oven, add quartered shallots and chunks of carrot (err on a bigger side). Wait till started to get golden, then add your meats cut into pieces. Stir 1 time while your meats are cooking quickly on the high flame: you only want to get the flavor out, not to fry your meats. Add shredded cabbage and cubed potatoes (big chunks), mix well, pour 6oz boiled water, cover and let simmer for about an hour on a very slow flame.
Mix 1/2 cup of boiled water, 1/2 can of tomato paste, bay leaves, teaspoon of sugar, freshly ground pepper and salt (not much; your meats are salted already). Pour over the contents of your Dutch Oven, carefully fold, cover and let simmer for another 30min.
Open it and you don't need to announce that dinner is ready - your family will run in on their own. Bon appetite!