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Can Poland and Germany cooperate in the kitchen?  Do kielbasa and spaetzle go together?  We’re going to find out whether these central European flavor powerhouses can work together better on the dinner plate than they have throughout history.  On a similar note, we’ll also find out if a brother and sister can work together to create a delectable dinner.*

*In a major reversal of history, Katie (representing Poland) looks to be aggressively threatening Brendan (representing Germany).  Brendan, on the other hand, seems to be confused as to why we are posing with noodles and sausage.

First, some background on this meal.

For those of you who do not know, I LOVE Poland!  I have participated in four mission trips to Poland where I teach English lessons and do VBS style activities at the Lutheran Church in Jastrzebie-Zdroj, Poland.  I’ve had an absolute blast getting to know some amazing people there.  One of the things I have most enjoyed during my stays in Poland is the FOOD.  Polish food is outstanding.  Each year at the camp, a group of very  talented and hardworking ladies prepare homemade breakfasts, lunches (for about 120 people), and dinners  for eight days.  They do all this work in a minuscule kitchen that produces fabulous results.

I have grown to appreciate Polish zupas (soups), moist and filling kluski (potato dumplings), kotlets (breaded meat cutlets)*, kapusta (cabbage), and an amazing variety of homemade pastries that keep me coming back a little heavier year after year.

*Many of these kotlets are chicken, but since the ladies have gotten to know me, they make pork cutlets special for me each year I’ve came…I love those gals.

Of course, here in the US, Poland is probably best known for kielbasa, which is the Polish word for sausage.  In Poland, there is a wide variety of kielbasa available, with various colors and textures.  Here, we are mostly accustomed to the precooked, smoked ring-style sausages.  As you can see below, I used this Kiolbassa brand kielbasa from Costco.  It’s from Texas…because when you think Polish-American cuisine, you think Texas???

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As for the German part of this meal, well, I AM half German…with Toedebusch and Richterkessing ancestors, you can’t get much more German than that.  Also, when I was going through ALDI a couple of weeks back, I saw this German spaetzle there on the shelf, and thought I’d give it a try.  What is spaetzle, you ask?  German egg noodles of course!

Finally, a brief note about the cheese.  The spaetzle recipe called for Swiss cheese.  I DESPISE Swiss cheese.  I think it is bitter, foul smelling, and usually has a dry grainy texture I don’t care for at all.  Also, we are accustomed to the American style swiss cheese.  Instead, for the recipe, I chose gruyere cheese.  Gruyere cheese is a TRUE Swiss cheese.  I find it to have a nutty, mild flavor, with a more pleasing texture that seems to melt a bit in your mouth.  You may recognize this cheese from fondue or French onion soup.  Image

Notice in the picture that the Gruyere is located between the spaetzle and kielbasa, staying true to its Swiss nationality.

Now for the cooking!

First, we had to do some prep work.

The spaetzle recipe called for 8 ounces of cheese, so I set my children to work on that, while I diced one whole onion.

First Katie grated:

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Then Brendan:

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I am happy to report that no fingers were grated during this process.  Hooray for mildly attentive parental supervision!

As I said earlier, I diced up one onion.  By the way, I love dicing onions.

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Next, Katie and Brendan worked together to get water to boil the spaetzle.  They also added an 8-year old girl sized handful of kosher salt.

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We put a lid on the pot, set it on high and waited for the water to boil.  At this point, our German representative wandered into the living room for a while to watch TV.  How un-German to leave a task uncompleted.

Anyway, befitting her role as Polish representative, Katie cut up four kielbasa into thirds.  I showed Katie how to hold the chef’s knife, and she carefully cut the links…this time with proper parental supervision.

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After we cut up the sausage, Brendan came back to carefully(ish) place the sausage in the skillet.

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In Poland, I’ve usually had kielbasa grilled.  However, I really like cooking these on the stovetop.  Here’s how I do it:

First, I put about two tablespoons of butter in with the kielbasa.  Hey, you know what this sausage needs? Extra fat!  I also sliced up half an onion and added it as well.  Then, I poured in my St. Louis component, Bud Select.  About half a bottle.  Finally, I ease up on that beer flavor with about 3/4 cup of water as well.  Image

DO NOT WASTE THAT HALF BOTTLE OF BEER!  Hydration is important.

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Meanwhile, Katie set to work sautéing those onions.  We’ll put those on once the spaetzle has boiled.  Katie did an outstanding job bringing her onions to a golden brown color.

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Meanwhile, the spaetzle boiled for 13 minutes, and I preheated the oven to 375 degrees.  Finally, after 13 minutes, the spaetzle was ready to be drained.Image

ooohhh.  Spaetzley.

Brendan and Katie then worked together to add the gruyere cheese to the top of the spaetzle.  They did a great job spreading it evenly over the surface!Image

I topped it with the carmaelized onions and a tablespoon of butter then placed it into the oven for five minutes to let that cheese do its thing.

After the five minutes were up, this was the finished product!

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Now, my beautiful and talented wife, Sarah, also took some pictures on her phone of our meal as well…you can see why she is truly my better half:

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There’s delicious kielbasa, topped with the onions that have soaked up that Bud Select and buttery goodness!

Also, here’s a stylish pic of her dinner plate that night:

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Just an FYI, the cucumbers in sauce you see on that plate is mizeria, another Polish dish.  You can Google recipes for it…but I’ll post my own recipe in a couple weeks…or my Polish friends can post their own in the comments, hint, hint.

So, what was the verdict on the dinner?  Everyone LOVED the kielbasa.  The beer, onion, butter, and sausage add nice flavor to an already savory smoked meat.

As for the spaetzle, we all liked it, but we all agreed it needed some salt.  Once we added some, it was great.  The downside is that just a cup of spaetzle is very filling, so we have A TON of leftovers.  Come on over!

The kids were awesome helpers.  Learning how to grate, sauté, cut, and follow directions are all valuable lessons that let kids take ownership in their meals, and develop some life skills as well.

Finally, I leave two questions for you.

What are some of your favorite German or Polish dishes?

What do you think are important cooking skills children should have?

THANKS FOR READING THIS LOOOONNNGGG post.

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