Friday, December 25, 2009


Uszka is a Polish word that, literally translated, mean "little ears." Uszka are small, pierogi-like (or ravioli-like) bits of a pasta dough that are stuffed with mushrooms, shaped sort of like a Bishop's hat, boiled, and traditionally served in barszcz (beet soup) on Christmas Eve for the Polish Wigilia celebration. Since I was having a traditional Polish Christmas Eve Wigilia at my home, I decided that this year I'd try my hands at barszcz, and as a result, need to make uszka. I read a lot of various recipes and finally combined them all and came up with my own interpretation. I used about two ounces of dried assorted Polish mushroom from the Polish store (EuroPol Polish Deli) in Winter Park, added about half ounce of dried shiitake mushrooms, and about an ounce of Wisconsin wild mushrooms that had been hand-picked and dried by my mother's cousin. I combined them all, added about 2 cups of warm water, weighted them down, and let they rehydrate for a good fifteen minutes or so. Once reconsitituted, I skimmed them off being careful to to disturb any sediment, and drained them. The "juice" i carefully strained and refrigerated for use later to flavor the barszcz. I chopped the mushrooms very fine.

In a non-stick skillet, i melted about a Tablespoon of butter, then added one finely chopped onion and sauteed that about 5-10 minutes, until the onion was soft but not browned. To this I added the mushrooms and cooked till the mixture was very dry. Removing it to a bowl, i added chopped parsley, a Tablespoon or two of bread crumb, and salt and pepper to taste. Finally, added one beaten egg.

For the dough I made my standard pierogi dough recipe. I've posted it here on my blog previously. I rolled the dough out pretty thin, and cut it into 2 inch squares. But then i realized i needed it to be even thinner, so I rerolled, again cutting into scant 2" squares. Smaller fingers would help.  On each square I put a scant half-teaspoon of filling, then folded it over corner-to-corner, making a "stuffe" triangle shape, and sealed the edges. Lastly, i pulle the two outside points toghther and pressed to seal, make what looks sort of like a bishop's hat--I had made some uszka! I made 36 of them--it is a very time consuming process. I had leftover mushroom filling and lots of dough, so I also made 9 regular pierogi out of them. But this is about uszka.

Once assembled, I boiled and salted some water, then boiled the uszka in batches just until they floated. I coated with melted butter and stored in the refrigerator, ready to add to my Barszcz Wigilijny, Christmas Eve. There, I did it. And, as evidenced by all the comments Christmas eve, they were wonderful.

Uszka have a wonderful flavor and are a very pleasant addition to the savory goodness of a fine barszcz. The woodsy flavor of the mushrooms is the perfect accent for the root-vegetableness (if that is a word) of the soup. The fact that they take time to make just increases their charm. It is well worthwhile to take the time to make them. Bardzo Smaczne!


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