An old shipmate’s recipe

In Recipies on March 5, 2012 at 10:09 am


Almost forty years ago, John Matejewski had a huge influence on my cooking. John was chief steward on one of the freighters I served on during what I now call, “My Popeye Years”. Like most of the crew, John was of purebred Polish lineage and it was from him that I learned the basics of Polish cooking.

For years, I prepared my kielbasa and potatoes like most people in a hurry. I fried the sausage in some oil, tossed in the potatoes, and then the cabbage and onions. Everything stayed in one pot and was cooked on the stovetop. Cooking time was about 30 minutes.

No, it was not how John cooked that meal.

Almost everything John served came out of a (slow) oven. He was a formidable cook and his passion was bread, cake, and pastries. Consequently, the oven was John’s weapon of choice for most meals.

After finding a deal on all-beef kielbasa, I set forth to prepare it in the same way I had done it for years.

Then, I remembered John and set out to prepare it his way.

Now, John would have used real butter in his version. I used olive oil. If your Invisible Friend has no edicts prohibiting mixing meat with dairy, by all means use (melted) butter.

This is a wonderfully simple meal. There are no complex herbs or spices. The flavor comes from slow cooking that blends the natural flavors of the ingredients magnificently.

Let’s start!

1 lb (beef) kielbasa, cut into large pieces

½ head green cabbage, coarsely chopped

½ yellow onion, thinly sliced

1-2 lb russet potatoes, peeled (3-inch chunks)

½ C olive oil (or butter)

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp paprika


Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour about half of the oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Lay the potatoes in the bottom of the pot. Drizzle the remaining oil over the potatoes. Now sprinkle the potatoes generously with some of the paprika, white pepper and salt. Scatter the onion slices over the potatoes. Gently lay the cabbage on top of the potatoes and onions and then place the kielbasa on top. Season with the remaining paprika, white pepper, and a bit more salt. Do not stir! Leave everything in layers. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 275F and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check the pot occasionally to ensure that it does not dry out. Usually, the cabbage will provide enough liquid.

The juices from the kielbasa gently bathe the vegetables and then get absorbed by the potatoes. The result is a wonderfully flavorful potato with a firm, yet melt-in-your-mouth, feel.


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