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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Nachinka - Ultimate Slavic Comfort Food

There are some heavy hitters in terms of Slavic comfort food: perogies, cabbage rolls, nalesnyky... These are all very well and good, but for me, nachinka trumps all of these. Nachinka, for those who are yet uninitiated, is a thick, baked cornmeal pudding. It may be thought of as the Slavs' answer to polenta, and many versions exist. My version is traced to my maternal grandmother's mother. As I write this, I just finished eating the last few bites of the nachinka I prepared earlier in the day, taking care to scrape up the delicious browned bits at the bottom of the pot. It's remarkably easy to prepare; detailed instructions follow. Smacznego!

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup yellow cornmeal
5 cups warm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 whipping cream or half-and-half
1 tsp baking powder

Assemble your ingredients (cute whisk is optional).

 Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent.

 Slowly and thoroughly stir in cornmeal.

 Add milk, and constantly stir over medium heat until cornmeal thickens (~10 min).

 Continue stirring until mixture is very thick.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, cream and baking powder. Reserve 4 tbsp for topping.

Stir egg-cream mixture into cornmeal until thoroughly mixed. Remove from heat.

Scrape cornmeal mixture into a deep, well-buttered casserole. Pour reserved egg-cream mixture over the top. Bake at 325 deg F for 45-60 min, or until nicely browned.

Enjoy as a stand-alone dish or as an accompaniment to ham or chicken.

And that, dear readers, is nachinka.  Each golden forkful is a trip to my grandmother's sunlit kitchen, where a well-worn gravel road runs past the sizable garden, something always smells delicious, and peace is found.

Yellow Cornmeal on FoodistaYellow Cornmeal


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