Ancora: Where Krakow and fine dining meet

“Although Christmas is invariably associated with traditions, sometimes it’s worth stepping outside of the box to try something new and inspiring.

Can new inspirations be found at the Christmas table?
The answer is yes. And in an effort to address your need for an excellent Christmas, we visited Adam Chrzastowski*, chef and co-owner of Ancora Restaurant in Krakow.

When we reached Adam at his restaurant, his workshop on culinary secrets had just come ended. Participants had been looking for new Christmas tastes. We missed the workshop, but discovered new tastes and aromas during the course of our conversation.

Should Christmas be more innovative or traditional?
Both the former and the latter. I can’t imagine Christmas without the traditional tastes that have been present on Polish tables for ages.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that we should stick to recipes from olden times. I believe carp isn’t the only choice for us. Sturgeon and pikeperch are also delicious Polish fish.
We can afford to prepare light food.

The tables needn’t be burdened with food as they used to be in the times when apart from housework preparations Christmas meant hours in queues.

What’s important is a table with traditional tastes, i.e. poppy seeds, raisins, nuts and figs, spices, fish, but they can all be served in a different way, with the spirit of the times. Christmas is an opportunity to eat well, but not stuff oneself with food. We should choose quality and not quantity. It’d be a great alternative for tradition. A new look at Christmas.

What’s most important when preparing the Christmas table?
I’ll repeat once again that no matter if you cook or only taste the most crucial thing is to keep an open mind. Everyone can point out several traditional Christmas tastes. You can try different combinations and prepare something in a new way. For instance, honey or spices usually added to gingerbread can be successfully used for making a souffle or gingery white chocolate mousse. It’s also possible to try to mix tastes that apparently don’t match one another, e.g. cabbage with mushrooms and fish.
Why not? The effect of steaming fish over boiling cabbage with mushrooms is interesting. The aroma of the dish permeates the fish. I strongly recommend pikeperch in this case. Another example is “”bigos.””

Actually, all Polish people have their own way of preparing the dish.
My idea is to add dried pears.
This year I’ll have pickled salmon with ginger and liquorice. It takes courage to do it! Anyway, instead of making experiments you can introduce some variations like replacing smoked sausages with cold jellied meat or preparing herrings in a different way, in mustard sauce, fruit, curry, mushrooms or spices. The thing is not to increase quantity, but concentrate on variety and appreciate the taste!

How many dishes will you have on your Christmas table?
Lots of them, according to tradition! There won’t be very simple dishes. If I have fish, it’ll be jellied fish or stuffed fish, salmon in different shapes, e.g. pickled salmon, or herrings, not only with onions, but with mushrooms, probably with yogurt and curry as in the Far East.

And what about “”pierogies””?
With cabbage and mushrooms as usual. For dessert, I’ll have kutya with vanilla ice cream this year. The mix of poppy seed, wheat and ice cream is really tempting. I’ll also serve noodles with poppy seed and vanilla cream. My mom will certainly bake a traditional poppy seed cake and gingerbread.

Christmas dishes have their symbolic meaning. Will kutya with vanilla ice cream bring happiness as well?
It’ll be very tasty.
I can’t guarantee more.”

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