29 July 2009

The Best Kielbasa and Sauerkraut with a Family Secret

This past Sunday was my nephew's Baptism. I was honored by my younger brother and his wife when they asked me to be his Godmother. It was a very nice ceremony (not that I have much experience with these things!) but the best part of the day was the reception afterward. My sister in law went above and beyond in preparing delicious homemade food. We had a large buffet laden with her family's traditional celebration foods: Kielbasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, sweet rolls, cauliflower salad, and three desserts! The star of the buffet was Kielbasa and Sauerkraut. The sauerkraut bakes down to this rich, browned stew, and the flavor of Polish sausage permeates everything. It is in a word amazing. In another word? Rich. I think her family's version of this dish should be tried by everyone - even if you don't think you like sauerkraut. The long, slow-roasting process and the secret ingredient mellows the sauerkraut flavor into something a little less shocking to the palate.

This is a picture of the original version, served at the Baptism.

Of course the minute I got back home from the Baptism, I had to email my sister in law and demand the instructions for the Kielbasa and Sauerkraut. I already knew the secret ingredient because her dad had spilled the beans earlier in the day - oatmeal. Yep. Old fashioned oats mixed into the watery sauerkraut mixtures turns it into more than the sum of its parts. I never would have guessed there were oats in the sauerkraut; they are completely undetectable. They melt into the juices given off of the sausage, mushrooms, onions and sauerkraut.

The secret ingredient being added to the crockpot.

Once I got the instructions emailed to me, I hit my local grocery store to buy the ingredients that I didn't have on hand. I was stumped when it came to the kielbasa though. My sister in law's family has a local butcher shop where they special order their kielbasa. She found a local butcher where she lives as well, so she wasn't sure how the standard grocery store kielbasa would work. I decided to diverge from the recipe significantly with the sausage and use a low fat turkey smoked sausage instead of traditional kielbasa. I figured if I wasn't going to have the delicious locally made kielbasa, I might as well save some fat and calories. I can honestly say that my sister in law's was much better, this was pretty darn good too. It was still rich and decadent, and I am happy to know I can eat this meal for more than special occasions. Of course, I will still look forward to those special occasions where I get my sister in law's version as well.

My imitation served over mashed potatoes with homemade bread.

Of course, I am submitting this family recipe to Laura and HoneyB's monthly event: Family Recipes: Memories of Family, Food and Fun. Thanks to HoneyB for hosting this month's round-up and extending the deadline so I could get something made for it! Thanks also to my sister in law, Alyssa, for sending me the instructions for this dish. I am including her original instructions plus my notes.
In Alyssa's words, cooking for about 15-20 people and using fresh kielbasa...
Here's what I did...I know that it can be a little different when it's not for such a huge group.. Saute one onion and about 2 lbs of sliced mushrooms in butter In roaster oven add sauerkraut (I buy Klausen's Polish Sauerkraut...my parents/grandma use old fashioned) Add a about 4 handfuls (enough to thicken) old fashioned oatmeal and stir Set at 300 degrees In separate roaster I added about 1/2 in of water and all the kielbasa Heat to 300 for 1 hour Add kielbasa to sauerkraut and stir occasionally. Adjust heat for how long you want to roast them together...I lowered it to 200 and cooked it for about 5 hours...it just gets better with the longer cooking
As far as amounts...I had about 9 lbs of kielbasa and 4 jars of sauerkraut...

Alyssa added if you're using the fresh kielbasa and cooking it separately first, drain it off before adding it to the roaster with the sauerkraut. Since I didn't use fresh sausage, I sliced the sausage and sauteed it in the butter before adding the mushrooms and onions to get a little color on the meat. Then I added the sausage, mushrooms, onions, sauerkraut and oatmeal into my crockpot. I set the crockpot on high for about 3 hours and then turned it down to low for about 3-4 hours. I used a lot of mushrooms because I had a lot that needed to be used up and used a locally made sauerkraut. Here are the ratios I used, which made enough for about 4-6 people:
14 oz smoked turkey sausage
32 oz sauerkraut with juices
32 oz mushrooms
1/2 large onion
2 handfuls old fashioned oats

27 July 2009

Barefoot Contessa Strikes Again: Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings

This recipe could not be simpler - but wow, the bang you get for your buck is intense. First of all, I have decided that any time you can fry something at home, do it. Do not waste your calories on onion rings at some local bar and grill. Waste your calories on onion rings that you pull out of the hot oil, and burn the heck out of your fingers eating them before they are cooled off.

Secondly, I have pretty much decided that anytime I need to bread something before frying it, I will use cornmeal. I. Love. Crunchy. Crispy. Deliciousness. Finally, don't be afraid to fry. As long as you have a thermometer, it is a breeze on your stove top - even on an electric stove.

I noticed the Vidalia onions had come in at my local Sam's Club earlier this summer, and I immediately bought a couple bags. I love the sweetness vidalias have that other onions just can't match. Once I had the onions, I knew for certain that I would be making my first attempt at onion rings. I was nervous and excited since I haven't deep fried much at home. To ensure I wouldn't wimp out, I decided to make it part of a barbeque at my parents' house (I am always hosting get-togethers at their house because it is so much easier to have people over there).

I got everything set up and started the onion ring making process, which was really easy except for the amount of time it took. To make enough onion rings for 6-onion-ring-lovers probably took about an hour. I think if I had used a bigger pot with more frying space, it would have been better. Regardless, it was totally worth the effort - the rings were so crunchy and crisp from the cornmeal. I loved the subtle tang from the buttermilk. These will definitely make the rounds again when I am feeling indulgent and in the mood to stand over a hot pot of grease.

Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings

2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved

Serves: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 large Spanish onions (or 3 yellow onions)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 quart vegetable oil
Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
When you're ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature.) Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs. Don't crowd them! Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remain crisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

21 July 2009

*tap* *tap* Is this thing on??

I am alive! I have had a very busy few weeks and haven't cooked anything worth posting recently. I promise to be back and better than ever shortly. I just pulled some locally raised trout out of the freezer to thaw for a meal... not to mention pictures I have to show you of homemade onion rings! I promise it will be worth the wait.