A Polish family recipe

It’s amazing what you can find out about your spouse, even after many years of marriage. One recent evening, we were making small talk with friends and I happened to mention that my wife was 1/4 Polish. She turned to me, bewildered. “No, I’m not.”

I gently corrected her. “Yes you are, honey bunny. You’re 1/2 Russian, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Polish.” My wife continued to insist otherwise, claiming to be 1/2 Russian and 1/2 German. “How long have you known me?” she asked.

Now this is one of those moments in a marriage where you are faced with two paths. One is the way out of the forest. It involves finesse, self-deprecatory laughteI attempted to straddle them. “But … your mother loved Polish food,” I stammered.

And indeed she did, especially pierogi and a good dill pickle soup. I bet she would have also been delighted by my recipe for kielbasa and cheddar soup, made with beer and finished with chopped pickles. Served with a hearty pumpernickel, it’s just the right comfort food for a cold winter’s night – just like her ancestors had back in Polska.

Kielbasa Cheese Soup
(variation from midwestliving.com)

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced carrots

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1 16 oz. can of Polish stout (or use Guinness if you can’t find any)

water as needed

1/2 cup pickle juice (optional)

3 cups diced potatoes

1 lb. diced smoked kielbasa

3 1/4 cups whole milk

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar (12-16 oz.)

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup finely diced dill pickles (for garnish)

pumpernickel or good brown bread

1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onion, celery and carrots in the butter until tender. Stir in flour; cook and stir for two minutes more.

2. Add the stout, potatoes, and kielbasa. Add enough water (and optional pickle juice) to cover, and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to simmer and cook 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Preheat the oven to 300º and place the bread in when the potatoes are about halfway done.

4. Stir in milk. When it is about to come to a boil, reduce heat. Add cheese and several grinds of pepper, cook and stir until cheese is melted.

5. Ladle into bowls, garnish with chopped pickles and more freshly ground black pepper. Serve with hot bread spread lavishly with butter.

Personally I think the pickles alone add just the right amount of “zip” without the pickle juice, but you might like to try it with and without.

As Yogi Berra once said - if you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Just watch your step.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.