Polish comfort food is a real meat and potatoes affair—and there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all.
This salty, savory and stick-to-your-ribs ethnic menu brings an array of rustic sausages into the spotlight, with a seemingly never-ending assortment of soul-soothing pierogis, along with breads, herring and pastries. Leave your calorie counting at the door and expect hearty meals and meat galore.
At least two area grocery/delis are keeping the local Polish population fed with fare from the homeland, while revealing to the rest why we ought to embrace this often overlooked cuisine. Polish Euro Deli (362 Jericho Tpke., Floral Park) and Polish-American Market & Deli (914 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park) are two local stalwarts supplying dinners and accouterments deeply rooted in tradition, but with a surprising flavorful complexity.
Firstly, on every Polish grandma’s menu is the pierogi. These Eastern European dumplings trace their roots to Russia in the Middle Ages, but Poles have since made the dish synonymous with Poland. These dough pockets are filled with cheese, potatoes, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, meat—basically any ingredient that comes to mind, savory or sweet. Pierogis are served pan-fried, steamed or boiled and are usually served with sour cream.
Both the Floral Park and New Hyde Park delis sell packets of their own styles of pierogis. At Euro Deli, the potato and cheese offers the perfect warming comfort, while Polish-American Market & Deli’s meat-filled pierogis are packed with a savory mix of beef and pork.
The delis’ display cases are also filled with a dizzying array of Polish sausages. Kielbasa krakowska is perhaps the quintessential Polish sausage, sliced and served cold, it’s packed with cuts of lean pork and seasoned with pepper, allspice, coriander and garlic before it is packed into a large casing and smoked. But don’t stop there, as there are at least a baker’s dozen of sausages to choose from. Kabanosy, or Hunter’s Sausage, is a thin, stick form of sausage—sort of like a mature Slim Jim, except not greasy/gross—there’s extra pepper added for an added spicy kick. These snackable sausages are dried for a firm texture and eaten at room temperature.
Then there’s the cyganska, or Gypsy sausage. If kabonosy is mature, cyganska is the road-hardened troubadour who has seen it all. This dark, deeply smoked sausage is made with pork, salt, pepper and garlic. It is woodsy and flavorful, with a smoky nuance that pairs well with cheese and even a dab of honey.
For dessert, Poles bake some of the most monumental sweet treats. There’s makowiec, a poppy-seed cake stuffed with raisins and nuts; Polish Easter cake known as babka; and perhaps the most typical sweet, paczki, a Polish donut much like a classic jelly donut.
Not just for Polish family parties, this cuisine could add a unique dynamic to any dinner, no matter the host’s ethnic background. Stock up on Polish groceries and prepare to feel full, satisfied and delighted.