Category Archives: Dinner Tonight

Taking Comfort in Polish Food: A Recipe for Kapusta

Last week I traveled to Upstate New York with my parents to say a much too early good bye to my cousin, who left behind three beautiful daughters.  Over 1,200 people attended her calling hours, which will give you an idea of the kind of person she was, and how many loved her. I have never seen anything like it.

It was an emotional few days that were filled not only with tears, but with laughter and smiles too.  Funny how even though I  may not see my extended family on a regular basis, when we all get together again we pick up just where we left off. When  it counts,  we are all there for each other, and there is comfort just in knowing that.

There is also comfort in the foods that surround this type of gathering, at least in my family anyway. Maybe it’s just an Italian thing? I don’t know, but I can tell you that from the moment we arrived there was food (really good food)  in front of me, and one of my aunts or cousins asking “Did you get something to eat?” or ” Make sure you grab a plate before you go…”  There were pasta dishes, sausage roll,  greens, tomato pie, antipasto, garlic knots, meatballs, and endless platters of Italian cookies; all familiar dishes to the small neighborhoods in which they are from. These familiar foods conjer up memories of family gatherings and help to soothe the sorrow in their own special way.

Okay, why don’t I have an Italian recipe for this post? You might be wondering that by now, with the first few photos (clearly not Chicken Riggies). Well you see, there are  Polish roots in my family too. Following my cousin’s funeral service, a reception was held at a nearby restaurant. When we walked up to the buffet, I was pleasantly surprised to see an assortment of some of my Polish favorites,  like pierogies, kielbasa, kapusta, mashed potatoes, and golumpkis. A flood of family memories rushed over me just seeing them all together in one place. This is the kind of Polish feast my grandma would put together when we all came to visit years ago. On that dark and  gloomy funeral day,  this was the stick- to -your- ribs kind of meal that offered us comfort and lifted our souls as we said our good byes.

 So today’s post is about remembering those we love, tradition, and the recipes that keep us connected to our past. While most  of what you see here on Table Talk is geared towards entertaining and dinner party fare, I still like my family comfort food, and will share it with you from time to time along the way.

Kapusta (Kah-POO-stah)  is the Polish word for cabbage. There are many variations of this dish; some using fresh cabbage, some with mushrooms and potatoes, etc…but this is not the style I grew up eating. I don’t have my grandma’s original recipe, and actually, I don’t know that she ever wrote it down. But I remember the flavor very well; it was kind of on the sweeter side. I  have made kapusta from memory like my grandma several times,  but this time around I jotted it down on paper.  So here it goes, my family recipe for kapusta. For those who share Polish roots and memories of grandma’s cooking away in the kitchen, you may like this one as much as the Golumpki recipe I posted  a few years ago. Those golumpkis continue to draw hits to my site from Google searches, so I guess I’m not the only one who loves Polish food and the memories that go along with it.



Kapusta may be served as a side dish, or used as a filling for pierogies. It is best when simmered over low heat for several hours, and even better when served the next day. For additional flavor, add smoked kielbasa (my favorite is Hapanowicz Brothers) to the kapusta during the last hour of simmering. Kielbasa (served with mustard and horseradish), kapusta, and mashed potatoes are a Popular Polish trio. 

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped sweet onions, such as Vidalia

2 (32 ounce) packages sauerkraut, rinsed well and drained

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cups water

Heat bacon drippings and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add drained sauerkraut, brown sugar, and water, sirring well to combine. Bring mixture up to a boil over medium high heat, then cover, reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 hours, adding additional water if necessary to keep mixture from sticking to bottom of pan. Adjust seasonings.

6-8 servings


Slow Cooked Chicken with White Beans, Bacon, and Rosemary Recipe

Today I’m going to share a dish I  made during my most recent cooking segment on Virginia This Morning. When the show’s producer asked me to share a hearty  comfort food recipe good for the cold weather we’re having, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

Knowing most people had probably already gone through their rotation of favorite chili, soup, and stew recipes, I figured  they would be ready for something different to mix things up a little.

I made this casseulet style chicken and white bean dish, which is one of my family’s winter favorites.  It’s  is easy to make, and rich with the smoky flavor of bacon and hints of rosemary. This one-pot dish gets its start by browning some chicken thighs, then  adding  vegetables to develop their flavor, before simmering away in the oven with  Chicken broth and white wine.

Your house will smell amazing while it’s cooking, which to me is half of the enjoyment I get from comfort food. Add  some good crusty bread and a green salad, and you have a dinner your whole family will love. It’s also a great dish for casual entertaining. The cooking is done before your guests arrive, and the menu is easy on your pocket book too!

I’ve added the clip from the show, which shows me whipping it together in 4 minutes (phew!)

Slow Cooked Chicken with White Beans, Bacon, and Rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil

6  chicken thigh pieces

6 ounces bacon, chopped

1 leek (white part only), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 small carrot, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 bay leaf

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried Italian red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 6-inch-long fresh rosemary sprig plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook chicken until golden brown, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to large plate. Add bacon and next 6 ingredients to same pot. Cook until vegetables begin to brown and soften, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; stir 1 minute. Add tomato paste; stir 2 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Add wine and simmer 1 minute.  Add beans to pot; stir to combine. Add broth; season with salt and pepper. Place rosemary sprig and chicken atop bean mixture.

Transfer to oven; braise 30 minutes covered; remove lid and continue braising an additional hour uncovered.  Transfer chicken to plate. Season beans with salt and pepper.

Mix 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, parsley, and lemon peel in small bowl. Divide beans among 4 shallow bowls. Top each with chicken. Sprinkle each with parsley mixture and serve.

4 servings


Crunchy Halibut with Mixed Herb Gremolata and Saffron Mashed Potatoes

When it comes to making dinner,  do you usually have a plan in place for the week ahead, with meals decided upon and shopping complete for the whole week?

Or…do you shop for a few days at a time, deciding as you go?

Or.. do you cook on the fly with no planning involved and wing it with whatever you have in the house?

I guess I kind of fall somewhere in the middle. I try and plan out a good part of the week, and shop a few days at a time for items I need. That way I have  the freedom to change my mind if I am craving something different than what is planned (which happens a lot), or for times like this occasion when I arrived at the market to find some beautiful fresh halibut looking out at me from behind the seafood case.

I really like the contrasting textures and flavors in this dish: crunchy/creamy/salty/sweet all rolled into one.  If you have never tried adding saffron to mashed potatoes, now is your chance. We are after all, in mashed potato season, right? I have also included a few tips for getting your mashed potatoes just right; just in time for Thanksgiving!

Panko Crused Halibut

4 (4 ounce) halibut fillets, skin removed

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons canola oil


1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoon minced chives

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Season both sides of fish with  salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of fish in flour, then dip in milk , followed by panko crumbs.

Heat  oil to shimmering over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add halibut fillet and cook until panko browns lightly. Turn fillets over, reduce heat to medium and cook until fish is just becoming flaky, approximately 7 minutes.

For gremolata: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl

Saffron Mashed Potatoes

1 1/3 pounds (4 medium)  Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into uniform 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon
salt, divided
2 tablespoons warm butter

Pinch of saffron threads

1/2 to 2/3 cup hot milk, half &  half, or cream

In large saucepan, Add  potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and just enough cold water until potatoes are covered; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cover and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

While potatoes are cooking, either in another saucepan or microwave, heat butter.  Also heat hot milk or cream to a simmer (do not boil) separately from the butter in another saucepan or microwave. NOTE: Do not add cold butter or cold milk/cream to when making mashed potatoes.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove from heat and immediately drain potatoes thoroughly in a colander. Return to saucepan; heat over medium-low heat approximately 1 to 2 minutes to dry potatoes, stirring occasionally.

In the same saucepan that the potatoes have been heated in, mash potatoes with a potato masher, potato ricer,  or beat with electric hand mixer until chunky.  Stir in warm butter, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, saffron threads, and 1/2 cup of the hot milk.  Add additional milk, a little at a time, if necessary, for desired consistency

Season to taste with additional salt, if desired.

4 servings

A few mashed potato tips:
* Do not cut the potatoes into smaller chunks as too much water will be absorbed by the potatoes. After cutting the potatoes, immediately place in cold water to prevent discoloration of the potatoes.

*Gluey or gooey mashed potatoes are caused by vigorous over mashing, as anyone who has tried to make the side dish in a food processor can attest. When potatoes are boiled, their starch granules swell. If those granules are broken too vigorously, the cells release copious quantities of starch, resulting in a potatoes with the consistency of wallpaper paste.

* Boiled potatoes left in water will start to jellify and may even increase in volume, becoming swollen and watery. That is why it is important to let the potatoes drain for a couple of minutes in a colander immediately after they are cooked.

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

3 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts
5 slices of Prosciutto
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 small shallots, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons  Balsamic Vinegar

Trim stems and remove outer leaves from Brussels sprouts; wash, then cut larger sprouts in half. In a covered pot, boil Brussels sprouts with enough water to cover until tender. Approximately 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, cook prosciutto in hot oil over medium heat; once crispy, remove. Use same pan and oil to cook shallots, garlic and butter. Allow to soften, then add sprouts, salt and pepper.

Cook for approximately 8 minutes or until browned. Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with prosciutto.

4 servings