Last year my brother married a gal of Polish origin which makes me automatically interested in the ways, culture and food of this northern European neighbor. This past weekend while looking for cookbooks at thrift shops and used book stores I tripped upon a a couple of Polish cookbooks which were quickly snapped up. I thought to myself, “I could make wicked Pierogies and impress the Polish folk” but then I saw a dish called Ryba po Grecku (pronounced REEba po Grets-Koo) – basically a “fish a la Greque’ dish.
Ryba po Grecku, is usually pan-fried (with our without) breading then reserved until a sauce of onions, carrots, celery, parsley (sometimes parsnip) and lemon and some bay or another herb of choice may be added to finish the sauce. As a Greek, I immediately thought of Psari (fish) Plaki where whole fish is traditionally baked on a bed of onions, peppers, tomatoes and another similar dish of Psari ala Spetsiota (Spetses style) with onions, tomatoes, wine, parsley and lemon.
I knew the Polish had to been inspired by these two dishes but my curiosity heightened when I found out that Ryba po Grecku is also served as part of a buffet for special occasion dinners, that the Polish also celebrate namedays (like Greeks) and again this Greek-inspired dish would be offered on such days.
AN old friend of Polish descent, Konrad Ejbich adds that on Christmas Eve the Polish do not eat meat and that there should be a total of thirteen courses and one should sample each of the offerings to truly welcome the New Year with promise. My question still remained…how is it that Polish would offer foreign dishes on special occasions like Christmas? Adds Konrad, “there was a time when Poland ruled a great part of Europe (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) with one of it it’s hallmarks being religious and cultural tolerance.
Food was obviously included in the Poles’ tolerance of other cultures and now that I think of it…those cookbooks I bought included a Moussaka and Baklava recipe! Ryba po Grecka is a Greek-inspired dish, made through the filter of the Polish palate and using ingredients at hand. I’ve only considered how Greeks in the Diaspora will cook traditional Greek dishes using the ingredients available or on-hand in the particular part of the world where they live. Climate, geography and the availability of Greek ingredients are all factors.
It’s comforting to know and see how much Greek cuisine is so widely loved and appreciated! Ryba po Grecku is a dish served most commonly cold/room temperature but I prefer to eat this warm.
1 lb. sole fillets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups of ripe tomato purée (or processed canned tomatoes)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion, peeled & thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup of shredded carrots (use your box grater)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley stems
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 shot of dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
lemon wedges for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
- If using frozen fillets, thaw overnight in your fridge, otherwise rinse and pat-dry then brush olive oil on both sides of fish and season with salt and pepper. Place back in your fridge while you’re making the sauce.
- Place a large skillet on your stove over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, onions, garlic, celery, carrot and parsley stems and sweat the veggies for about 5-6 minutes. Now add the wine, paprika and tomato purée, salt and pepper and bring back to a boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is thick. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and dill and reserve.
- Take your fish out of the fridge and allow to come back to room temperature. Heat a large non-stick skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat. Place about 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal in a plate and dredge both sides of the fish then drizzle some oil in your pan and place your fish in the skillet (fry in batches) and fry for about 2-3 minutes a side or until slightly golden. Remove the fillets and reserve on paper-lined plate.
- Ryba po Grecka is served family style: spoon some sauce on a platter and then cut the fillets into three pieces and set on the sauce in a domino fashion and then pour remaining sauce over the fish. The polish eat this dish cold so it can be prepared a day in advance but I had it warm with a side of rice pilaf. I drank a Glinavos Primus white (from Epirus) with this.
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