Bachelor Cuisine: Kielbasa
(June 21, 2003)

Gooey starch is all well and good, and a bachelor heart is warmed by it. But now it’s time to turn to something heartier. Something rib-sticking. We need some meat.

Today we’re looking at kielbasa. It’s ideal for our purpose — a little smoky, a little sweet, not too expensive, usually precooked (and thus easy and safe to handle and prepare).

I like the Hillshire Farms Turkey Polska Kielbasa, myself, but you should experiment. For example, the Hillshire Farms regular kielbasa has a firmer skin, with more of a snap. I don’t like it so much, but you might. Or perhaps you feel like true bachelor cuisine ought to shun un-fried poultry. In any event, there are many excellent kielbasa products out there for you to explore.

And now . . . the recipes.

Kielbasa with Dwight Street Sauce

1 bun-length piece of kielbasa
1 sandwich roll
Cranberry juice
This recipe was developed during the year-long period of box mac and pork fried rice that followed college. It’s simple but tasty.

Place a bun-length chunk of kielbasa into a pan over medium heat. Add a good squirt of ketchup, and a hefty splash of cranberry juice. Stir and flip the kielbasa occasionally. The heat will cause the ketchup and cranberry juice (with perhaps a bit of help from kielbasa drippings) to combine into a sweet and tangy glaze-like sauce. The sauce will keep the kielbasa from burning. When the sauce has reduced to taste, move the kielbasa onto your sandwich roll. I prefer a sandwich roll to a hot dog bun because it has more heft and chew. Kielbasas are also often too big for a normal hot dog bun. You can pour or spoon the sauce over the kielbasa if you like, but it usually isn’t necessary; a good coating before leaving the pan will do.

Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions

1 large kielbasa
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 onion

Slice your kielbasa into inch-long chunks. Slice your bell peppers into strips about half an inch wide. Chop your onion into half-inch square chunks. Toss everything into a pan over high heat and cook until the onion turns golden and is softened but not limp.

This recipe can be served on a sandwich roll or over rice. You can also add the Dwight Street Sauce to this recipe; it helps avoid burning.

Mexican Terror Kielbasa

1 large kielbasa
1 green chile pepper
1 red chile pepper
1 onion

This dish is prepared just like Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions, but with different ingredients. It is the result of a tragic misreading of an early, less clear version of the recipe for Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions. Two out of three roommates rate it “hard on the digestion”. The other really likes it, though.

Kielbasa Braised in Beer

1 large kielbasa
1 bottle of beer
a few shallots

This recipe is adapted from one in James Beard’s American Cookery.  However, the original calls for red wine. Now, there’s always a place for alcohol in bachelor cuisine, and certainly red wine is truer to the spirit of bachelor cookery than some wussy Chardonnay, but a more
virile brew, like beer or tequila, would be better. Thus, whenever possible, a bachelor chef replaces wine with a beer or spirit more befitting his muse (keep an eye out for the upcoming beer risotto).

In this dish, beer seems most appropriate; braising in tequila, while decadent, would be more expensive than bachelor cuisine can reasonably sustain.  I prefer a relatively mild beer for this dish. I love stout, but I find that in sauces and stews it tends to bring an unpleasant bitterness to the party. A nice ale would be good.

Slice your kielbasa into as many pieces as you have guests, and chop the shallot finely. Put the kielbasa into a skillet with the shallots and beer and bring to a boil.  Depending on the size of your skillet, another bottle of beer may be called for. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet, and braise the kielbasa for 35 minutes, turning once.

When done, the kielbasa will be swollen and juicy, with a pleasant note of beery bitterness. I like to serve this plate with mashed potatoes.

Kielbasa Tubesteak

4 3-inch pieces of kielbasa
4 strips of very thinly sliced steak, about 3 inches wide
1 bottle of beer

This recipe has two things the ideal bachelor cuisine recipe should: an absurd amount of protein, and a really juvenile name.

Begin by quickly searing your steak over high heat on both sides for about a minute. The idea is to take the red off and prevent the steak from stretching and shrinking in later stages of the recipe. Both sides of the steak should be just grayed, but there should be no red spots left. It doesn’t need to be browned.

After you’ve seared the steak, you may want to blot off any fat that may have rendered out, depending on the cut. While you do, toss your kielbasa into the pan to warm them up a bit and add the beer. As in Kielbasa Braised in Beer, you may need two bottles if your skillet is large. Lower the heat to medium, allowing the beer to come to a boil while you begin the next part.

Spread each piece of steak on one side with a condiment of your choice. I recommend a good mustard, though Dijon was very disappointing. Ketchup is serviceable if unexciting. Barbecue sauce didn’t survive cooking in my test, but a thick sauce might work well. Horseradish might also be good for some palates, or you could use some soy sauce and pickled ginger for an Asian/fusion-inspired twist.

Remove the kielbasa from the beer, and roll each piece inside a piece of steak, condiment toward the kielbasa. Secure with toothpicks. By this time, the beer ought to be boiling. Reduce the heat to low, add back the tubesteaks, cover, and leave to simmer for 10 to 20 minutes.

Kielbasa Tubesteak keeps relatively well, though it dries out a bit if left to stand. A relatively small portion is very filling, especially if you use a strong-flavored condiment.