Halushki – Comfort Food
Profound apologies to all people whose heritage stretches into Central and Eastern Europe, but this is my Anglicized version of a traditional dish from that region. A second warning: I am not a trained cook; only an enthusiastic dabbler in the kitchen. Act accordingly.
My version of halushki (or halushky) comes from a poorly remembered concoction somebody did on a television cooking show long ago.
The essential ingredients are: bacon, onion, cabbage, and egg noodles. So, let’s get started.
Not all bacon is created equal. The stuff that appears in supermarket coolers should not be allowed to carry the name bacon. It shrivels down to nothing but a pool of fat.
Proper bacon comes wrapped in butcher paper, not entombed in plastic.
I have the good fortune to live in the middle of Mennonite country in southern Ontario. Local butchers smoke pork, as one told me, the old-fashioned way. He was cagey about revealing further details; perhaps, suspecting I was a corporate spy out to steal his secrets.
Below is what proper bacon looks like and we buy it by a mysterious measure called “a flat,” which amounts to about a pound.
Chop the bacon into pieces about half an inch square and fry it in a large electric frying pan.
(My hope is that you have a better appliance than mine which only seems to heat up in the top, left-hand corner. You work with what you have.)
The kill joys at the World Health Organization warn against doing this. In October 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said processed meats cause the dread disease.
Bacon, ham, pastrami, the very things that make life worth living, are said to be carcinogenic. Read a bit further down the report and you find perspective. Eating a hot dog or four slices of bacon a day increases your chances of developing colorectal cancer from five percent to six percent.
You have been warned.
Next up is an onion, but not just any onion. Spanish or Vidalia onions are my preferred choice. Thinly sliced, it goes into the pan, and is cooked, as the recipe books say, until it is transparent.
At this point someone will come into the kitchen as say loudly “Mum. Dad’s cooking looshkeye again. Can we order pizza?” Ungrateful little blisters.
Then it’s the turn of cabbage; not one of those pale green, cannon-ball cabbages. My halushki has to have Savoy cabbage. The crinkly dark green leaves have a milder and sweeter flavour.
Cut the cabbage in half and take out the core. Thinly slice one half and toss it into the pan. (The other half will come in useful for coleslaw or a door stop).
Stir the whole kit and caboodle, cover and cook on low heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
Cook a package of egg noodles (375 grams or about three-quarters of a pound) in boiling water. Drain and stir into the frying pan.
Serve with a liberal sprinkling of sharp Cheddar cheese on top.
In fairness to eastern Europeans here are some of the ingredients in real halushki:
- A British website says what is called bryndzové halušky is Slovakia’s national dish “that consists of potato dumplings combined with cheese sheep curds and fried bacon.”
- Genius Kitchen has a recipe for Polish Haluski that is quite similar to mine, but substitutes Romano cheese for Cheddar.
- All Recipes has version handed down from a Polish grandma that employs pork chops rather than bacon and is "quick, simple, inexpensive, tasty and makes enough to feed an army."
- “What Is Halusky? Everything You Need to Know about this Special Slovak Dish.” Halushky.co.uk, undated.
- “Halushki.” Genius Kitchen, undated.
- “World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer.” Stacy Simon, American Cancer Society, October 26, 2015.
“Halushki.” Kris, All Recipes, undated.