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Irek Kusmierczyk Shares Traditional Polish Dishes

Photography by Sooters Photographer, John Liviero

Irek Kusmierczyk with his mother Marta.

The heart of the Holiday Season for our family is Christmas Eve dinner celebrated in the traditional Polish way with twelve fish and vegetarian dishes. The centrepiece is the delicious red beet soup called borscht, my mom Marta prepares, with mushroom dumplings called ooshka that our family assembles together around the kitchen table.”


Traditional polish clear red borscht with dumplings with mushrooms

Mushroom Filling

• 1 lb fresh mushrooms baby bella and white button, sliced
• 1 sweet onion medium size, chopped
• 2 tbsp butter unsalted
• 2 tbsp bread crumbs plain
• salt and pepper to taste

Clean, wash and slice your fresh mushrooms. In a frying pan heat up some butter and add chopped onions. Cook until translucent. Add mushrooms to the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 15 minutes until soft and fully cooked. Put the fried onion, mushrooms and the bread crumbs into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add salt and pepper as needed. Pulse a few more times. Do not over process the mushrooms! You want to have little pieces of mushrooms in the filling, as opposed to a paste.

Ooshka Dough

• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup milk warm
• 1 tbsp butter unsalted, melted
• 3/4 cups water warm or more if the dough needs it
• pinch of salt

Attach a dough hook to your mixer. Add flour into the bowl. Add melted butter and warm milk, and then start mixing on low speed. Start adding warm water a little bit at the time. Sometimes the flour absorbs more moisture and you will need to add more water. In the end, your dough should be elastic and not sticky to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for half hour. Divide your dough into four pieces. Flour your working surface and place 1/4 of the dough on it. Cover the rest of the dough with plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s thin but not see-through.

Assembling Ooshka

Using a 1.5 inch in diameter glass, (ie. a shot glass), cut out the rounds from the dough. Working with one circle at the time, add 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the middle, wet one half of the circle and cover it to meet the other side of the circle. Stick the edges together. Grab the opposite ends of the ooshka and stick them together to create an ear shaped dumpling. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling. Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it generously and add no more than 10 pierogi at the time. Boil for about 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon once they rise to the surface, resting the ooshka on a dry surface like a cutting board in a way they do not touch each other.

If serving immediately, place the ooshka in bowls and cover with borscht.

Borscht – Red Beet Soup

• 6 beets medium size
• 2 carrots medium size
• 1 parsley root or parsnip medium size
• 1/4 celery root or 1 celery stick
• 1/2 leek
• 4 sprig parsley
• 1/2 onion
• 4-5 dried porcini mushrooms
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 whole allspice
• 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
• 5 black peppercorns
• 1 tbsp buckwheat groats-kasha (optional)
• 1 tbsp olive oil or butter unsalted
• pinch of red pepper crushed
• 2 tbsp white vinegar + more if needed
• 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar + more if needed
• 2 tbsp salt + more if needed
• freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel, wash and cut into chunks the vegetables (carrots, parsnip/parsley root, celery root, leeks). Place your vegetables and onion, bay leaves, allspices, peppercorn, red pepper, kasha, 2 gloves of garlic, olive oil or butter and washed mushrooms in the large pot, cover with 8 cups of water, add a tablespoon of salt and boil for about 35 minutes over medium heat, uncovered. Prepare beets – peel them, wash and slice in ¼ slices then cut the slices again into strips ½ inch thick like french fries. Place beets in a separate pot, cover with 5 cups of water and boil for 5 minutes. After that add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tbsp of white vinegar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice and boil for additional 15 minutes over medium heat. Use a strainer to separate and discard the vegetables from the broth. Combine the beets and the beet water with the vegetable broth, add the remaining vinegar and garlic, salt, pepper to taste, and bring it to boil. Serve with Ooshka.

Croquettes (Krokiety)

Croquettes are rolled up fried crepes with a variety of fillings – this one here is for sauerkraut and mushroom that pairs beautifully with red borscht. 

Mushroom Filling

• 1 oz dry porcini mushrooms
• 16 oz fresh mushrooms baby bella and white button, sliced
• 1 sweet onion medium size, chopped
• 2 tbsp butter unsalted
• salt and pepper to taste

Place dry porcini mushrooms into a pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook mushrooms for about an hour. Once cooked, use a slotted spoon and gently remove them from the boiling water. Dry mushrooms tend to be very dirty and have a lot of sand, so this is an important step. Most of dirt/sand will fall to the bottom of the pot, but you should also move the mushrooms into coriander and wash them really well under running water. Once cleaned, set them aside.

In a frying pan heat up some butter and add chopped onions. Cook until translucent. In the meantime, clean and slice your fresh mushrooms. Add mushrooms to the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 15 minutes until soft and fully cooked.

In a food processor, combine cooked dry mushrooms with sauteed fresh mushrooms and pulse a few times. Check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. Pulse a few more times. Do not over process the mushrooms! You want to have little pieces of mushrooms in the filling, as opposed to a paste. Set aside.

Croquettes Dough

• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup 2% milk 
• ½ cup of water or more as needed 
• 1 egg and 1 egg yolk 
• 2tbsp of 14% sour cream
• pinch of salt
• mazzola canola oil for frying

Add the milk, eggs, sour cream, salt into the blender or mixer and start adding the flour while mixing. Add water as needed to get the dough of a flowing consistency. Heat a frying pan (9 inches) over medium high heat. Brush or spray the pan with oil (don’t spray when the frying pan is sitting on an open flame!) Pour about ¼ cup of dough, shake and tilt the pan to spread the dough, so that it coats evenly the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, until crepe is set and beginning to brown. Flip crepe and cook another 15-20 seconds. Remove, stack on a flat plate. 
Repeat steps 4 – 9.

Assembling Croquettes

• 1 egg
• 1 tbsp of water
• 1 cup of Bread crumbs 
• Mazzola Canola oil for frying 

Put approx. 1 ½ tbsp of filling and spread it evenly on a crepe in a strap of approx. 5 inches wide from top to bottom, keeping it approx. 1 inch from the top and the bottom edges. Fold the sides of crepe in and continue rolling from the bottom up. Repeat, until you run out of filling or crepes. Whisk egg and water. Dip in rolled crepes in the egg and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Heat oil, about ¼ inch deep over high to medium high heat. CAREFULLY place croquettes in hot oil, cooking until golden brown, about one minute on each side.

Serve: croquettes are served warm on a small dish and pair with a cup of hot red borscht to sip – no beets.

Fresh Fried Fish

• 2lbs of pickerel or rainbow trout (cleaned, descaled but with skin left on)
• 1 ½ tbsp windsor kosher coarse salt + more if needed
• 1 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper 
• 3 tbsp kujawski – rosemary, oregano, basil infused oil (European Market)
• 1 tbsp of kamis or prymat fish seasoning (European Market) use as needed
• 1 tbsp of kamis or prymat provencal herbs (European Market) 
• 1 tbsp dried terragon (crushed)  
• ¼ lbs butter unsalted
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• mazzola canola oil for frying
• horseradish kasztelanski (European Market) on the side

Make sure the fish is clean inside and out. Remove with a knife any remaining scales. Rinse the fish under cold water, using the tip of the knife to scrape out any black residue that remains along the fish’s spine. Pat the fish dry with paper towels.

Cut the fish into 1 ½ inch thick steaks and even keep the tail piece – about 3 inch long.

Mix the herbs into one part of seasoning. Put the fish pieces into a bowl and pour the infused oil over it. Mix the fish to make sure that the oil covers all. Sprinkle each piece of fish with salt and pepper and then with the seasoning mix. Set aside in a bowl, covered for half an hour. Put the flour onto a shallow pan and dredge the fish pieces in it by pressing it down on all sides.

Heat the mazzola oil, about ¼ inch deep over high to medium high heat in a large cast iron skillet or other non-stick pan. When oil is hot, lay the fish pieces in the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes over each side, until golden brown. Flip with a thin, wide spatula. Fish is properly cooked if it easily flakes with a fork and looks nearly opaque. Don’t overcook the fish either! Put the fish pieces into a hot glass casserole and put a chunk of butter on each piece to melt.

Serve hot or cold with horseradish on the side and a fresh baguette with butter.

1 comment

  • Thank you for these recipes. My mother-in-law made these every Christmas Eve. My kids miss the soup with mushroom dumplings the most. You have inspired me to attempt making this for my family….