Street food is an amazing part of every culture’s history, in the past it was common for people who did not have proper stoves for hot meals to purchase what was known as street food. Nowadays the convenience of street food for daily lunches or quick bites has almost become a necessity for everyday city life. To add street food has recently become so embedded in today’s culture as not only grabbing something to eat but it also revolves around social aspects of life. People follow their favorite foods on twitter, facebook and stalk out the corner before the truck pulls up to order first. Street food trucks are now part of mass events celebrating food, music, and art, they even compete along side each other like trendy restaurants.
There are several street foods in Poland which were made popular by the PKP and PKS stations (train and bus), these involve meat kebabs, stuffed pitas, and the most common known and derived from Polish culture, is the Zapiekanka.
This is a traditional and widely common street food which resembles a french bread pizza, yet very different as the crispy baguette is smothered with slowly cooked mushrooms (sometimes wild mushrooms, yum), topped with a mild but very meltable cheese, and spicy ketchup. One crunchy bite and you are hooked.
Hooked to the fact that I have seen blogs with people who just needed to try a zapiekanka while traveling in Poland, and of course they took awesome photos devouring them. The fantastic part is that this is no tiny sandwich, a regular zapiekanka is usually about a foot long or more and can be topped with just about anything from chopped veggies to sauces of all sorts.
Yet…I’m going to bring it back down to the basics, we make these at home a lot… I mean a lot, mushrooms are pretty cheap in the UK so it’s easy to get carried away when you have fresh warm baguettes at home.
The basics start with mushrooms, plenty of fresh mushrooms. In this recipe I tend to use more baby bellas and portobello mushrooms but they are just as amazing with some white button mushrooms. The mushrooms are slowly cooked with shallots to release all the moisture from inside them. The base then simmers in the liquid, herbs, and wine until tender and just soft to the bite, al dente.
Once cooked the mushroom base is slathered on fresh baguettes, topped with a mild melting cheese such as gouda, dutch edam or even mozzarella and placed in a hot oven until the cheese starts to bubble. Who can resist caramelized creamy mushrooms and hot bubbly melted cheese…not me, not me at all.
The only thing left is to top it off with some spicy Polish ketchup, catch a train, bus, grab a cola, or beer…whateves…I’m busy thinking about eating these now and making them again tomorrow to accompany some spinach soup.
- 2 small french baguettes, cut in half lengthwise
- 8oz/250g portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped (substitute with any mushroom)
- 1 medium onion/shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 cup hot water
- 1/4-1/2 cup wine, white or red
- teaspoon cream or milk
- 8 slices or 2 cups grated Gouda or Dutch Edam cheese
- Warm olive oil in large pan on medium heat and add chopped shallots/onions, cook till translucent, about 3 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms, reducing the heat to medium-low as this process will extract the water content in the mushrooms but not dry them out. Sauté until mushrooms start feeling tender and drastically decrease in size, about 20 minutes. If mushrooms appear dry, add some of the hot water and continue to sauté.
- Once the mushrooms have softened add all the spices and herbs, and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. The chili is optional if you prefer some heat. After the spices have been well absorbed, add the wine/brandy/broth/water and cook for an additional 10 minutes, remembering to add extra hot water if they look dry to create a slight sauce texture. After the liquid is well absorbed and the mushrooms are fragrant. The mixture should be thick yet still wet. Thicken the sauce by making a paste from flour, cold water, and a bit of cream; gradually stir into the mushroom mixture. Cook this mixture for an additional 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400F degrees (200C)
- On each half baguette pile several spoonfuls of the cooked mushrooms, pressing the mixture down with the spoon. Place the prepared baguettes on a baking dish and top with cheese.
- Bake until cheese is bubbly and melted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving as the mushrooms will be very hot.
- To serve, place Zapiekanka on a plate and generously top with spicy ketchup or sauce of your choice.
- Makes 4 servings