Fish in Old Polish Gray Sauce – a recipe name that predates marketing! What this dish lacks as you conger up a picture in your mind, it makes up in flavor. Of the two Polish fish recipes I’ve prepared lately, this was Ed’s favorite. He chose this over my favorite, Greek Style Fish.
This is a dish usually made with carp and usually prepared for Wigilia on Christmas Eve. While real Polish Housewives of yore might have had a fresh-caught carp swimming in the bathtub for a few days before the holiday meal, carp, swimming or not, is not readily available where I live.
If availability is an issue for you too, substitute any white fish, fillets or steaks. I think the steak cut is more visually appealing, but you’re less likely to run into bones in a fillet.
This particular recipe for Old Polish Gray Sauce gets some seasonings and thickening from gingerbread crumbs. We add sour and sweet to the gingerbread spice. When you add the fish, it becomes something special.
Fish in Old Polish Gray Sauce inspires an appetizer
As I think about this dish, I know that it inspired an amuse bouche we sampled at a lovely hotel restaurant. We were staying at Kolumna Park Hotel in Dobron near the F-16 base at Łask.
The item in question caught my eye in the appetizer section of the menu. Gingerbread, plum mousse, and herring. I didn’t order it, but when the chef sent out a tiny square for us to sample, I had to try it. I had to try to be polite and to honor my “experience everything you can” philosophy about our time in Poland.
It was a very thin layer of cake, 1/2 inch maybe, topped a small piece of herring and finished with about an inch of an artfully piped mousse. The flavor combination was surprising and wonderful!
We had a chance to speak with the young Polish chef, who had trained in France. He described the cake as carrot cake. Maybe that’s because he knew we were Americans and he thought we would be more likely to know carrot cake than gingerbread cake. He said that he’d also used a plum jam. I can’t remember if it was spread on the cake or mixed into the mousse, maybe both.
This combination was so surprising to me. I wondered how anyone had the creativity to put these ingredients together. When I mentioned it to Elżbieta, my friend, and guide to all things related to Polish cuisine. She nodded knowingly and said, it’s a special kind of plum jam. It didn’t seem to be a big deal to her. I wondered if the special jam was lekvar? It was certainly a novel combination to me!
If you’re looking for a fish recipe for Christmas Eve, we recommend Fish in Old Polish Gray Sauce to you.
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Fish poached in a sauce that’s a little sweet, a little sour, with a hint of earthy spices.
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons red wine
- 3 tablespoons raisins
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup gingerbread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- pinch of ground ginger
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- 2 pounds carp or other white fish (1 kg)
- Add the brown sugar to a small saucepan, heat on medium until the sugar melts. Add the red wine and raisins and cook for 30 more seconds. Add the lemon juice and cook until most of the liquid is dissolved, a minute or two. Set aside.
- In a medium pot or frying pan (one big enough to hold the fish), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the veggie broth and gingerbread crumbs. Whisk or blend until smooth and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Add red wine vinegar, honey, and spices. Adjust seasonings as needed. Add fish in a single layer (you may need to poach more than one batch depending on the size of your pan and the fish) submerging in the sauce as much as possible. Cover the pan with a lid, simmer over medium heat for a few minutes, until the fish will flake or the internal temp is 145 F° or 63° C.
Some recipes will use rye bread crumbs rather than gingerbread crumbs.
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