At the turn of the last century, the North Fork of Long Island experienced a large influx of Polish immigrants, driven by religious persecution and a strong desire to better themselves in a country of boundless opportunity. They stayed and prospered, working the local farms, and later purchasing their own land. Their influence is still evident everywhere today and nowhere more strongly than in Polish Town, Riverhead.
Pulaski Street was the center of this thriving community and today it is still dominated by the twin spires of immigrant-built St Isidore’s church. The Polish Hall still stands and is the setting for many a celebration and home to a tap room and a thriving bowling league. The area has changed over the intervening years, but there are still stores selling a wonderful selection of imported Polish foods that have provided a taste of home to generations of immigrants and their descendants. At my first Polish Easter on the North Fork, I was served delicious smoked and fresh Kielbasa from Euro Deli, situated right on Pulaski Street. It was only recently that I found my way in person to the store and was amazed by the array of freshly made and imported foods on sale. Why had I waited so many years to visit!
I purchased some delicious sorrel soup and stuffed cabbage for lunch and vowed to return in spring to buy some house-made sausage and share this richness with the Beacon readers. I hope this menu inspires you to visit this hidden gem and discover its treasures. Rest assured you will return again and again. Happy Spring!
Smoked & Fresh Kielbasa
Most of the kielbasa available in stores is already smoked, cooked and ready to heat through. I cooked both locally made smoked and fresh kielbasa (a rare treat). I heated the smoked sausage in the oven and the fresh version was poached in water, with aromatics added for extra flavor. I recommend buying most of your items at the Euro Deli. Their yellow mustard with whole peppercorns is the right depth of spiciness and the fresh sauerkraut and pickles are the best. My favorite rye bread, hands down, is the sauerkraut rye available from Blue Duck Bakery with branches in Riverhead, Southold, and Greenport. Get there early or call ahead to secure a loaf and have lots of good butter on hand when you serve it.
For the Fresh Kielbasa
1 fresh kielbasa (approx. 1¼ pounds)
Coarsely chopped herbs and vegetables for poaching such as celery, parsley, bay leaves carrots and onion
1 tsp. salt
Fill a wide pan with enough water to cover the sausage. Add the vegetables, herbs and salt, then bring to a simmer. Add the fresh kielbasa and poach gently for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from the pan.
1 large smoked kielbasa
Place smoked kielbasa on a rimmed sheet pan and place in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the interior temperature is 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.
Polish spicy yellow mustard
Sourdough rye bread
Cut the kielbasa into thick chunks and arrange on a large platter with a mound of sauerkraut, dill pickle spears and wedges of crusty rye bread. Serve with mustard, butter and the potato and roasted pepper salads.
Polish Potato Salad
This salad is a staple in most of eastern Europe and Russia. For a heartier salad you can add chopped boiled eggs and cubed ham and make a meal of it. Quantities are flexible, and you can add more mustard and lemon juice to make a tangier dressing You can adjust the amount of onion to your taste and substitute parsley for the dill. Do not overcook the potatoes or carrots. They should be firm-tender and not mushy.
Four medium Yukon gold or russet potatoes, about 1½ pounds, boiled in their skins, cooled and peeled
2 medium carrots, about 12 oz, peeled, cut into large chunks, and cooked until just tender. You can adjust the amount of onion to your taste and substitute parsley for the dill
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
half a small white onion, finely diced
1 large celery stalk, finely sliced
1 large dill pickle, finely chopped, about 3-4 Tbsp.
1 tsp. sweet paprika
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt and fresh black pepper
For the Dressing:
4 Tbsp. of mayonnaise (preferably a Polish variety)
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. pickle juice
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Whisk all dressing ingredients together and set aside. Dice the cooked carrots and potatoes into small cubes and place in a bowl with the peas, celery, onion and chopped dill pickles. Fold in the dressing. Stir in the paprika and 1½ Tbsp. of dill and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve. Sprinkle with the reminder of the dill and a little extra paprika. The salad needs a few hours to allow flavors to develop, and is even better the next day.
Roasted Pepper Salad
For a colorful presentation use a mix of red, yellow, and orange peppers. You can use apple cider or white wine for the dressing, although I like I like the mellow sweetness of the rice wine vinegar.
Three large bell peppers roasted (see instructions) with skin and seeds removed
If you have a gas stove, then you will get great results by roasting directly over a low-medium flame. Remove stalks and place one pepper at a time over the flame and roast each side turning until each side is evenly blackened. Use tongs to turn the peppers and watch your hands! Do not prick or cut the flesh, or the juices will start to leak out. Once the peppers are ready, they will start to soften and collapse. Place hot peppers in a bowl covered with plastic wrap (this makes peeling easier), and allow to cool. Scrape off all of the skin and seeds and set aside. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1 ½ Tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
two large cloves of garlic, minced
1½ tsp. honey
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
A generous handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried & finely minced (about 2-3 Tbsp.)
salt & pepper to taste
Cut the peppers into 1-inch-wide strips and arrange on a serving platter. Lightly sprinkle with fine sea salt. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the peppers. Add extra salt and pepper to taste. Leave to marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour.