Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Food

Christmastime means good, hearty Polish cooking.
Polish Christmas Dinner
My plateful of appetizers, including: smoked salmon filled with cream cheese and herbs, a salad (kind of like a potato salad without the potatoes), cold cuts (mostly being ham and pork, but also some kindziuk, a Lithuanian cured sausage similar to salami) and bread.

As I stated before, Christmas Eve is devoid of meat and almost every dish contains at least some part fish. Barszcz and pierogi are also main features to the meal. Usually, the barszcz is served with small, pierogi-like dumplings filled with mushrooms. They're called uszka (little ears) because of the way they look. This Christmas we didn't have the uszki, just the barszcz served in glasses like a drink; although, we did have pierogi.
hard-boiled egg caviar
An appetizer I didn't have, hard-boiled egg with caviar. Usually a lemon is squeezed over it.

Herring is the most common fish in Poland. It's called Śledź (shledge) and is a staple of Polish cuisine. If it's not herring, the fish is always something similar, i.e. it's always a whitefish. In the US we think of whitefish as trash fish and mostly used for soups and stews (or making fish 'n chips.) Salmon, swordfish, tuna, trout, these are the fishes we enjoy the most. Fish with high fat content and distinct flavor. Fish that looks good on the plate, and not like some sort of maxipad that's been run under a tap for fifteen minutes.
Anyway, on Christmas Eve we had: herring in oil with onions, herring in some sort of jelly (I didn't try it), herring chopped up in a small side salad, greek-style fish (burbot was used instead of herrring.)
The coolest tradition, I think, is buying a large, live carp; taking it home and putting it in your bathtub; killing, gutting, cooking and serving it on Christmas Eve. Not very many people do that these days, but it used to be popular.
Polish Christmas Dinner
Christmas Dinner: Main Course. Pork loin, carrot salad, mashed potatoes and a salad with oranges. The sauces to the left are horseradish, beet and horseradish and a cranberry sauce.

As for drinks, we didn't have much in the way of alcohol. Two bottles on Christmas was enough for the whole holiday. The white was OK, but the red was dreadful (it was a Spanish red and tasted kind of like transmission fluid.) At both meals the main drink was Coke. Juice and water were also available. On Christmas Eve, we were served a compote made from dried fruit. It came in two versions, one was sweetened and the other was not. Both tasted kind heavily of prunes, but it was OK.

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