Nalesniki or Polish Crêpes are a good example of appetizing foods knowing no national boundaries. Although a year-round culinary pleasure, Nalesniki are particularly suited to the Lenten Fast and Abstinence days of Polish and other Roman Catholics. Nalesniki ingredients and fillings change to suit religious food requirements and seasonal specialties.
Crêpes, usually considered French, are just one of many dishes that merged with indigenous Polish cooking through centuries of Poland’s multinational connections. In assimilating this recipe, as with other food preparations, Nalesniki took on a distinct Polish essence. The numerous recipes, countless savory or sweet fillings, and even the four distinct ways of folding and browning Nalesniki are distinctly Polish. The secret to tender Nalesniki is in the preparation and cooking.
Recipes vary from simple ones using only four ingredients to those utilizing a yeast batter. Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans, a collective work first published in 1948, contains a good selection of these variations. Here are two simple recipes:
Nalesniki – 1 (makes about 8 to 9 pancakes)
- 3 eggs
- ½-cup milk
- 3 teaspoons flour
- ¼-teaspoon salt
Nalesniki – 2 (makes about 16 to 18 pancakes)
- 3 eggs
- 3/4-cup milk
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½-teaspoon salt
Ingredients should be at room temperature. Preparation is quick and simple. Hand tools such as rotary beater, whisk, or fork are sufficient. Beat eggs about one minute in a large bowl. Add liquid ingredients; beat into egg mixture. Mix or sift dry ingredients together into a smaller bowl. Add all at once to egg mixture and beat into a smooth batter.
Use a flat-bottom frying pan liberally coated with either unsalted butter (heats and smokes quickly), salt pork, or light-tasting cooking oil such as canola. When a drop of batter in the pan sizzles, oil temperature is just right.
Pour a small amount of batter – about ¼ cup – into the frying pan – enough to make a thin pancake. Practice and size of frying pan determine how much batter to pour. Tilt and swirl the frying pan to spread the batter out over the bottom.
When the Nalesniki are brown on the bottom and the top is set, remove from pan. Do not turn over.
Fill, roll, and eat Nalesniki as they come, warm from the pan or, stack finished pancakes, brown side up, on an inverted shallow soup bowl or serving dish. They should not stick together.
Finish frying batter and cool pancakes. Prepare to fill, roll, and brown or bake all the prepared Nalesniki.
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