During the holidays, there is much talk about turkeys: how to cook a turkey, how to eat a turkey, what to eat with it, and what to do with the leftovers. I have nothing against people eating turkey, but if it fell out of favour as a culinary favourite, I wouldn’t miss this bland bird.
It comes as a surprise to some people that I no longer care for turkey and that it has never played a significant part in my family holiday meals. The first question I am asked is, “Then what do you eat for Christmas dinner?” Personally, I tend to eat only a small amount of turkey (to please the cook and the hosts) and fill the rest of my plate with side dishes and salad. Side dishes are often what I look forward to the most. Yams, roasted vegetables, a variety of potato dishes, collard greens, butternut squash, and salads with nuts, European cheeses, apples and pears, and any other fare that is not a usual part of our evening meals. With great side dishes, turkey remains the main dish, but is no longer the focus.
If one chooses not to cook a turkey for Christmas meals, there are still other meat and poultry options that can make a holiday feast delicious. There are various kinds of beef and pork roasts, lamb, venison (deer), and moose meat.
During the holidays I always develop a craving for homemade soups, and hearty stews. These also make great festive dish. This year I look forward to adding one of my favourite soups to the holiday table, zupaogórkowa, also known as Polish Pickle Soup. The recipe below is one variation of this soup courtesy of Barbara Rolek of thespruce.com.
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 large garlic dill pickles, about 3 cups chopped
2/3 cup liquid from pickle jar or water
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
Salt and black pepper
Sugar to taste, if desired
Chopped fresh dill for garnish, if desired
Melt butter in a large pot. Sauté onion until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add broth, pickles, pickle liquid and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Blend flour with sour cream. Temper sour cream mixture with a little hot soup.
Pour tempered sour cream into hot soup, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Adjust seasoning, adding sugar if desired. At this point, the soup can be left chunky or puréed to the velvety consistency of vichyssoise.
Yovella is a former resident of McCauley who still works and volunteers in the area.