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New Year, New Food, Old Traditions

I am sorry that I have been away so long! First the hard drive on my computer went bad. Then the blog server had script errors (or something like that) that took days for my web guru to fix. Then my home Internet connection went south and over the course of the past several weeks I have been completely unable to get here!

It’s a new year and I have a new hard drive and a new blog server and a new cable guy came out to check the cables AGAIN and he is going to have new cables installed on Saturday, sometime between 12 and 2. Meanwhile he fixed it as best he can and I am taking advantage of it while I can!

I made it until midnight on New Year’s Eve! (Ok, that is a teensy bit of an exaggeration because I have no recollection of events between 11:15 and 11:58, so I know I fell asleep. I peeped my eyes open again at 12:02 and that was all she wrote. Mark said “Happy New Year Honey” and I said “Yay, I love you, good night!”. Do you make resolutions for the new year? I like to reflect on the old and dream about the new, but I also like to keep an open mind and see what transpires once I have envisioned that dream. Rarely do things turn out the way I ‘planned’ them to!

We went to dinner at Cosmo’s in Port Orchard for our final meal of the year. We wanted to stay close to home and they had a ‘chop house’ theme so Mark could get a steak and I had perfectly cooked lamb chops and we had some wine and a lovely meal together. The service is good, the food is good and the owners Christina and Shelly are really great women who I know I would love to be friends with if only we could all find time to get together! We all have restaurants to run and of course they are up much later than I am and I am up much earlier than they are, so this friendship-to-be will have to take the slow route for a while longer.

During the height of the snow we tried a new place in Port Orchard called ‘Koi’s Bistro’ and I have extremely high hopes for this place! The location is not so great (On Bethel rd, just north of Sedgwick) but the food we had was fresh and flavorful and I really liked it. The menu is Asian themed and very eclectic with Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese dishes as well as a few others. Not politically correct but gastronomically delightful! I admit that I have not ventured into a Pho restaurant in Kitsap, since no one can seem to recommend one highly enough. I had pho at Koi’s and thoroughly enjoyed it! The service was very attentive and the menu is really fun. It was difficult to choose so we will be back!

Many people have traditional foods that they eat for ‘good luck’ in the new year. In my family growing up it was my godfather Gordon’s Halusky. I googled the word halusky and found that it is literally the word for the dumplings in the dish. Gordon called the dish Halusky and the dumplings he called (forgive my attempt at the spelling) ‘knaydlins’. I think that is a bastardization of the word ‘knaydlach’ which is Slovakian for dumpling.

The dish of my childhood started with some side pork in a frying pan. Once the fat was melted and the pork was getting to be crispy bits he added cabbage and let it fry up a bit. When the cabbage was done he tossed in the dumplings and served it with salt, pepper and vinegar. He said that the men in the family had to make the dish in order for it to bring good luck for the new year. My maternal grandfather was Gordon’s best friend and he helped make the dish, and then my father made it as well. I have adapted the dish a bit and I am going to cook it tonight (after all, I am not a man and so I didn’t think I should make it on New Year’s Day, but I am hankering for it!). Is it weird that as a kid I loved this dish? I loved the love it was made with even more… and anything those men did was good in my young eyes. My dad passed the recipe on to me and I am grateful that I am able to have the memories flooding my whole being with every bite, even if it doesn’t taste quite the same. Every cell in my body feels the love those men had for us and it helped make me who I am today. I don’t have to miss them since I hold them with me, but I do.

Gordon’s Halusky (altered a bit)

You could use side pork, pork belly, pancetta, or just plain old bacon (thick cut)
Fry it up and if you want to be more health conscious wipe the grease out of the pan.
If you did that, add some olive oil or cooking spray to get the cabbage going until it is soft. A head of green cabbage is what Gordon used, I use Savoy. (I like it ‘al dente’… not mushy and with a bit of crunch still.)
Salt and pepper to taste and then toss in the pork that you used and the dumplings.

I like to have it a wee bit more substantial so I toss in some chicken-apple sausage that I already cooked and cut up… but this is definitely not in the original recipe.

To make the knaydlins…

1 1/4 cup flour
Salt (probably about a half a tsp? taste the finished dough, you can add more)
2 eggs
5 or so egg shells of water

Mix it all together. It will be a fairly wet/sticky dough (technically a noodle dough, though much wetter)

Bring a pan of water to boil and drop the knaydlins in a spoonful at a time. They are done when they rise to the top. Fish them out and cook the rest, draining each batch as it finishes.

Top the entire dish with vinegar. I like cider vinegar here, (and I have an ale vinegar that is really good on it, too!) but you can use malt or white wine or rice, or whatever you like, really.

It’s a very simple dish and I know you will like it. You can of course make it your own in so many ways, there is lots of room for additions and changes. It is hard for me not to add some onions and garlic, but I can only alter this particular dish so far since it holds so many memories for me.

What are your memories of tradition? I would love to hear about them!