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Hunter's Stew (Bigos)
The Washington Post Wine Club Hunter's Stew (Bigos)

Hunter's Stew (Bigos)

Make Ahead
Slightly sour and spicy, this hearty, beloved dish is served at Polish family gatherings. Poultry is not used and pork has become the most common meat ingredient; a variety of meats improves the taste of the stew.
Wine Pairing
Wine Pairing
1 3/4 pounds homemade or store-bought (one 28-ounce can) sauerkraut, drained
2 cups water, or more as needed
4 thin slices Canadian bacon (about 2 1/2 ounces total; may substitute 4 strips raw bacon), diced
1 small head green cabbage (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), cored and cut into thin slices
Small handful of dried mixed mushrooms (about half of a 3/4-ounce package)
8 ounces boneless venison, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces lean boneless stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces lean boneless pork or veal shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
8 ounces smoked kielbasa or other spicy hard sausage, cut crosswise into thick slices
1 cup pitted prunes, each cut into quarters
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the sauerkraut, water and bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the liquid starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and the sauerkraut is tender. The mixture will be fairly soupy.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage and dried mushrooms in a separate large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Drain in a colander.

Use paper towels to pat dry the venison, beef and pork or veal shoulder. Place it in a large resealable food storage bag along with the flour; seal and shake to coat evenly. Shake off any excess flour from each piece of meat. Discard any excess flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil or lard in a Dutch oven over medium heat; the pot should be large enough to hold all of the meat and vegetables. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir to coat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the onion is softened but not burned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onion to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil or lard to the pot. When it’s hot, add just enough of the meat so that it can brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; repeat in batches to brown all of the meat (no need to add more oil).

Increase the heat to high; add the wine and immediately use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return all the meat plus any accumulated juices to the pot, along with the onion, sausage, prunes, the cabbage-mushroom mixture and the sauerkraut-bacon mixture with all of its remaining cooking liquid. Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until a rich dark brown broth has formed and the meat is falling-apart tender. If the mixture seems like it’s getting dry, add water during cooking as needed. It should be moist, but not watery.

Serve hot, or cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container for up 5 days.

Make Ahead: The stew improves in flavor after being refrigerated for a day or two, and it freezes well.

Adapted from "From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food," by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden (Chronicle, 2012). Tested by Zofia Smardz.

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