By Laura Stec
E-mail Laura Stec
About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en... (More)
About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and environment pioneer, macrobiotic, Master Cleanser, ayurvedic, and officially-designated health-nut or party-girl (depending on the year). Professionally, I've worn many industry hats including: line cook, corporate chef, Food Coach, caterer, product developer, restaurant reviewer, culinary school teacher, corporate wellness educator, food co-op clerk, author, and even Cirque-du-Soleil lead popcorn concessioner! For years I managed an outdoor kitchen, deep in the bear-infested woods of Tahoe, and also for hospitals (the most unhealthy kitchen I ever worked in?), Singapore high-rises, mule-pack trips, Canadian catholic rectories, and more events than I could ever recall. Yet I still keep discovering. Actually, I adapt everyday by new lessons learned from teachers, customers and students. However there is one food truth I now hold sacrosanct: Eaters are motivated by pleasure. So no matter what we discuss here - recipes or restaurants, food politics or pairings, local events, food as art, or even as God, I will always come from a high-vibe, party perspective. Oh I do still long to change the world with great tasting food, but know in my heart, "If it ain't fun, it don't get done!" So - wanna come to the Food Party? By the way - it's a potluck. (Hide)
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We celebrate Wigilia
at the Stec household, a traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner that begins after sighting the First Star. Kicking off the festivities, family members break oplatek
(flat wafer blessed by the priest), exchanging well wishes for the coming year. As a child, I would run away from the affair thinking it was just too touchy feely. As a 20 and 30-something adult, I would still run away, fearing my aunt's inevitable, "I hope you find that special someone" or "May you be blessed with many children." I don't run away any longer, but always keep Dad's famous line in the back of my mind: "We used to pray for Laura to meet a good man, now we are just praying for a miracle!"
A piece of oplatek is placed on top of hay that sits center table and serves as a base for the main dishes. If the wafer sticks to a serving dish, it signifies someone at the table will be "with child" in the new year. Guests have a spoon (for the mushroom soup) and a fork for the kluski (boiled, sautéed dough topped with cottage cheese), pierogi (stuffed dough), and kapusta (seasoned sauerkraut), but are given no plate. Everyone eats from the same bowl, a custom originating from the old country, but when asked, no one seems to recall why they, or we, actually do it this way.
Traditionally, the meal is meat-free and composed of 11 dishes (symbolizing the twelve disciples minus Judas).
Many cultures have some type of stuffed dumpling; in Poland it is the pierogi. This year I helped my mom and aunt make this loved holiday delicacy. After the dough is rolled, it is cut, stuffed (with kapusta, potato, or dried plum), boiled (like bagels) and sautéed in butter. I've attached some pierogi-day pictures, and our secret family recipe for the dough.
What are your traditions that make the holidays unique and memorable?
Fillings: kapusta and dried plum
Merry, Happy Christmas Eve!
Polish Pierogi Dough
- from Helen Stec
- Makes 60
3 cups flour
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 ½ cups sour cream
Combine all ingredients, let stand ½ hour. Roll.