Bigos is one of those Eastern European dishes that has as many versions as borscht. And debate about its origins can only be compared to arguments what pizza is better. It is also one of those meals that can go a Rolls-Royce route or a pickup truck one.
A few years ago, for a family party, I made a Rolls-Royce version following directions of @cliffwright51 . It took a few days of shopping. It included duck, pork loin, Polish hunter’s sausage, Krakow sausage, smoked bacon, cooked ham among other things. It required roasting, frying, boiling, sautéing before the final 1 1/2-hour of stewing. And that was not it. To condition for serving, I had to refrigerate the dish overnight, reheat and stew it for another 1 1/2 hours, cool again, and reheat for another 1 1/2 hour again. I did all that.
This is a version by my mother, whose idea behind this stew was to clean the refrigerator and use up leftovers. The two main ingredients are always cabbage and sauerkraut. After that — anything goes. My mother was the master of cutting corners and creating amazing results pretty much out of nothing.
WHAT WENT IN:
— 1 lb chorizo meat rolled into small meatballs, or Italian sausage, but sliced kielbasa would be best;
— 1 lb country style boneless ribs cut into pieces the size of meatballs;
— 1 pack of hot dogs cut to match the same meatballs (very not classy but that was my favorite part when I was little — I used to secretly pick most of them out of the pot to the dismay of the family);
— 4 oz smoked bacon;
— 2 Tbsp butter;
— 2 onions, chopped;
— 1 head of cabbage (whatever size there is), sliced thin;
— 2 lb sauerkraut, drained and rinsed;
— 1 oz porcini, soaked, drained, chopped;
— 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (fresh are good, too, just skin them);
— 2 Tbsp tomato paste;
— 5-10 pitted prunes, sliced (if you have them);
— 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and julienned to match cabbage;
— 2 tsp ground allspice;
— 1 Tbsp caraway seeds;
— 3 bay leaves;
— 1 tsp sugar;
— 1 tsp black pepper;
— 2 cups broth of any kind or water;
— 1/4 cup Madeira;
— salt — do not add it until you taste — smoked meat is pretty salty. I ended up not adding any at all;
— parsley and/or dill for garnish.
Yes, the list looks long but the process is very streamlined. It’s a true one pot meal.
1. In a dutch oven, starting from the most fatty one, cook all the meats, besides bacon, one at a time and place on a dish covered with paper towels.
2. Discard all the fat from the pot, don’t wash it, add butter, bacon, and onions. I like heating the onions together with the fat — they seem to cook more evenly.
3. Once the onions color light brown, add cabbage and sauerkraut.
4. When the cabbage softens, add everything else — one thing at a time, mixing to combine.
5. Cook covered for about 30 min. Check. If it’s too dry, add some broth or water and cook for another 15-20 min. If there is too much liquid, open the lid and simmer for another 15-20 min.
6. Check for salt, garnish, and serve. That’s about it.