In their first cookbook, From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food, friends and journalists Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden give readers a taste of the Polish countryside.
What inspired you both to write a Polish cookbook?
Danielle Crittenden: Anne and her husband Radek invited a group of their American friends to come for an August weekend at their Polish country house, Chobielin. None of us had seen the house before; the last (and only) time I had been in Poland was just after Communism fell, in the summer of 1990. And what has happened to Poland over the past two decades has been similarly transformational—especially for its cuisine. Anne would be picking fresh plums and arugula from the garden in the morning and serving them up in exotic and delicious ways.
Anne Applebaum: Just about every single person who visits me in Poland tells me that everything here is better than they thought it would be—especially the food.
DC: In North America, we tend to associate Polish food with heavy, simple cuisine descended from immigrants—many of them Jewish—who arrived on our shores at the beginning of the last century. Thus my personal interest was to rediscover the subtleties and interesting flavors of Polish cuisine, such as pierogies as delicate and translucent as Hong Kong’s finest dim sum, containing all sorts of original fillings.
What are your favorite things about Polish cuisine? And what is your favorite dish from the book?
DC: My children’s all-time favorite dish (one of mine too) is something we had to research from a memory of my husband’s grandfather—whose favorite meal he remembered only as “boiled chicken.” This recipe appears in our book as “Chicken-in-a-Pot,” and it is essentially a deconstructed chicken soup.
AA: My favorite Polish foods are the soups, and particularly the sour soups, which I don’t think I’ve ever had anywhere else. Zurek, sour bread soup, as well as chlodnik, a cold soup made with beetroot and yogurt, are really unique to Polish cuisine.
Where did the recipes in the book come from?
DC: They are from a variety of sources. Some are from Anne’s brilliant historical research. Many are from family, and Radek’s family. Some (like our steak tartare) are from chic new Polish restaurants. Anne also kindly sent me an old book that is sort of the Joy of Cooking for Poles from the 1950s.
AA: The recipes come from all over the place: my husband’s family, my Polish friends, old and new Polish cookbooks. A few we made up, using local ingredients; and some are Danielle’s adaptations of traditional Polish recipes using American ingredients.