A little sour, a little sweet, and a lot of smoke. While this traditional Slovakian stew is known for its place at the Christmas and New Year’s dinner tables, it’s a dish that celebrates more than the holidays. Flavored with oaky dried mushrooms, smoked meats, and fermented cabbage, kapustnica is an ode to Slovakia’s tradition of food preservation.Start by heaping bites onto corners of toasted, crusty bread and before you know it, you’ll be slurping the last sips of broth straight from the bowl.
1 cup dried mushrooms
2 tbspolive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp paprika
1 large Polish-style kielbasa, sliced into rounds
6 cups water
1 cup sauerkraut
1 smoked ham hock, washed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp caraway seeds
Salt and ground black pepper
½ cup prunes or 2 tbsp fig jam
1 tsp dried marjoram
Plain yogurt, dill, more paprika, and crusty bread for serving
1. In a small bowl, begin soaking dried mushrooms in 2 cups of water. Let soak for 15 minutes, then drain mushrooms and discard water. Set soaked mushrooms aside.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add oil and sauté onion and garlic until golden, about 5 minutes. Add paprika and sliced kielbasa and stir to coat. Let cook on lowfor 2-3 minutes, or until kielbasa starts to brown.
3. Pour 6 cups of water into the pot along with sauerkraut, mushrooms, ham hock, bay leaf, allspice, caraway seeds, salt, and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil before allowing to simmer for 90 minutes, or until the meat on the ham hock is falling off the bone.
4. After an hour, remove ham hocks from stew and cut away any tender meat. Chop meat into bite-size pieces and return to stew.
5. Stir in prunes or jam and marjoram. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, or until prunes have rehydrated.
6. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, garnishwith fresh dill and a sprinkle of paprika, and a slice of toasted crusty bread.
Recipe, Story, and Styling by Nina Katz / Photography by Jeff Swensen