Maine weather cries out for comfort food in every season, but especially as fall turns into winter. And New England comfort food—classics like rich and creamy clam chowder, sharp cheddar macaroni and cheese, hearty Yankee pot roast or Indian pudding topped with vanilla ice cream—is in a class by itself.
The abundant charms of local specialties notwithstanding, I’m always looking to expand my comfort food repertoire with ethnic dishes—think spicy curries from India, cassoulet from France, matzo ball soup, potato dumplings and so many more.
One of my go-to comfort food favorites is a dish that I first tasted in college, prepared by my first-generation Polish roommate. Bev introduced me to her grandmother’s recipe for haluski our sophomore year. Haluski ticks all the comfort food boxes—it’s warm, hearty and filling, easy to prepare, can be make in large batches, and the ingredients are simple and inexpensive.
Traditionally, haluski was a meatless dish especially popular during Lent. But like most comfort foods, home cooks have taken the basic recipe and made it their own, adding meat, using different noodles, even popping the ingredients in a slow cooker for 21st-century convenience.
Crisp cabbage, sautéed onions and garlic, buttery fluffy egg noodles and maybe some crispy bacon bits and browned kielbasa rounds come together in a symphony of rich, cozy comfort. So let’s hear it for haluski!
1 12-ounce. package wide egg noodles, cooked al dente
1/2 lb of bacon, diced
1 pound kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch circles
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 medium sweet onions, sliced into thin strips
4–6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 medium head of cabbage, about 4 cups, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
In a large, high-sided skillet, cook diced bacon until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels, leaving 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan.
Over medium heat, sauté kielbasa in bacon drippings until crispy and brown at the edges and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet. Add the onions, garlic and brown sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and just beginning to brown.
Add 3 tablespoons butter and cabbage to the onions. Salt and pepper generously and sauté until cabbage is just tender, about 6–8 minutes. Don’t overcook the cabbage.
Add cooked pasta, bacon bits and kielbasa to skillet and combine. Heat through. Adjust seasoning, garnish with chopped parsley and serve right away.
Egg noodles are traditional, but broken lasagna noodles (I always have an open box left over from making lasagna), pappardelle or any substantial pasta or noodle will do in a pinch.
Haluski is a great way to use leftover chicken, turkey or meat. Use leftover meat in place of the kielbasa for a delicious and cost-saving meal.
Green cabbage is best for haluski. I did use red cabbage once and had a lovely pink noodle dish. While not great for most occasions, it was a fun Valentine’s Day meal for my kids back in the day.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at candacekaru.com.