June 25, 2012

Polish-Asian Fusion!?

It must be recipe Monday, because I have another to share with you!  This was a blissful experiment that started by Googling "what to serve with kielbasa."  I had thawed a Polish kielbasa for dinner, but I was looking for something interesting to serve it with besides the ordinary potato or beans.  In scrolling through side dish suggestions I read the phrase "browned with brown sugar" and I stopped instantly... ideas!  The brown sugar instantly reminded me of the very ripe pineapple that's been living on my counter for several days (that I keep passing saying to myself, 'I really need to use this?').

But before I embarked on the main part of the dish, I wanted to make some of those long, skinny, crunchy breadsticks.  I used this recipe for Crisp Rosemary Breadsticks but scaled down the recipe to a serving size of 12, and then modified as necessary.  I required a bit more flour than the calculated ratio called for, and I also added more rosemary and a generous dash of paprika to the flour,  I brushed melted butter and sprinkled on parmesan cheese and some sea salt before baking.  The result was a lovely paprika-toned breadstick which was aromatic and flavorful.

While my dough was rising, I did the prep-work for the rest of the dish.   I had no brown sugar, so I called up one of my favorite unexpected sweeteners--dark molasses.  To substitute brown sugar, you can mix molasses with plain granulated sugar, stirring it up in a little bowl or ramekin until the sugar absorbs the molasses and it's more or less sugary not liquid. I used about a teaspoon of molasses and a couple tablespoons of sugar.  I prefer dark molasses for its unique and bold flavor, but light molasses will do as well.  To this sugary mixture, I added a generous portion of ground ginger, to taste, again mixing with a fork.

I prepped my pineapple, which was quite ripe and so very sweet and tender.  I chopped it finely after removing the core.  If you need help with this, there are many resources online, such as at this link from the Casual Kitchen.  Likewise, I sliced the thawed (already fully cooked) kielbasa and quartered the slices.  I removed any skin that was hanging off the pieces.  My dog appreciated that!

Next, I sliced some serrano peppers to punch up the heat on this otherwise sweet dish.  I like it spicy, so I kept most of the seeds with them.  The serranos we grew this year possibly cross-pollinated with a hotter pepper, and so they are really, really hot.  If you use a hot pepper, don't forget to clean your cutting board (and your hands) really well, lest you transfer that flavor to other things (or rub your eyes! Ouch!).

I collected some thyme, mint, and parsley from the garden, rinsed and chopped it (reserving a bit for garnish).

Think about your timing for a moment.  I knew I was making some tri-colored rotini to go with the kielbasa mix, so I knew it would be several minutes to boil water and about 7 more to cook al dente.  The breadsticks would have to rise 45 minutes then bake 20-25 minutes.  I like to have my prepped ingredients ready and waiting for me (cooking show style!) so I don't run into unexpected delays.  I start on the thing that is going to be most time consuming (obviously) which is usually a bread item, and do my prep work while that's rising.

To heat up the kielbasa, I fired up the cast-iron skillet with a little olive oil to medium-high.  Into a hot pan, I added the kielbasa, pineapple (only a couple handfuls of the chopped pineapple), and molasses-sugar-ginger mix.  These hit the hot pan and wonderful things started to happen:  the pineapple caramelizes, the sugar & molasses "melt" and everything releases a wonderful aroma and browns a bit.  I immediately turned the heat to the lowest setting, and added the peppers and toasted sesame.  The mix can sit on low for a pretty long time in the cast-iron skillet, with occasional stirring.  This helps bring out the pepper and the subtle flavors of the ginger and sesame, and prevents the pineapple and sugars from scorching. Don't add the chopped herbs until you're within 5 minutes or so of serving, because you don't want them to loose color and become totally limp.

When the pasta is al dente, drain, and add to the skillet with the rest of the goodies, and stir gently to avoid breaking up your pasta.  The pan sauce that's been forming with the meat and pineapple juices will be all you need to wet the pasta.  Add any more herbs, salt, sesame, or pepper to taste.  Plate and garnish, and enjoy!

Don't let the gingery sweet warmth of the essentially grilled pineapple fool you--right behind that first Hawaiian-pizza-reminiscent bite comes the spicy heat!  And how often do you get to pair Polish with Asian-inspired ingredients?

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