Fish in horseradish sauce

This recipe is the first of the 12 dishes that make up the traditional Polish Chrismas-eve meal, which is eaten after sundown on Christmas eve. The Polish word for "Christmas eve" is Wigilia (pronounced VI-gee-lee-ah). Its root is like the English "vigil": waiting for Christ to be born. At the end of the Wigilia meal the family goes off to midnight mass at church.

There are usually 12 dishes in a Wigilia meal to symbolize the 12 apostles, though some families serve 13 because they include Christ in their count. The meal starts when the first star can be seen; this symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. Although The Wigilia is meatless (Advent, the season of penance, continues until midnight), it is still festive and delicious. The tradition of Wigilia, though centuries old, is still current in Poland. There is no fixed set of rules for what the 12 (or 13) dishes must be; the items in the meal change somewhat according to location and availability of ingredients. Nevertheless, all of the dishes are traditional, and in addition there are many traditions for the serving of the meal. For example, some people place straw under the tablecloth to symbolize the manger in which Christ was born. Most families set an extra place, for the stranger who might be passing by. This is my family's traditional Wigilia meal: Fish in horseradish sauce Pike Polish style Pickled beets Pickled herring in sour cream Stewed sauerkraut with mushrooms Christmas eve kutia Almond soup Noodles with poppy seed and raisins Poppy-seed rolls Christmas bread Baked apples with red wine Marzipan 12-fruit compote With this first recipe you will notice a similarity with my last name. Now you know a word of Polish (namely chrzan = horseradish ie. "hot stuff").


(Serves 6)




  1. Combine vegetables, dry seasonings, and water in a saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil; simmer 20 minutes, then strain.
  2. Cook fish in the strained vegetable stock 6 to 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.
  3. Remove fish from stock. Arrange on serving platter and cover with plastic wrap. Chill.
  4. Strain fish stock and reserve 3/4 cup for horseradish sauce; cool.
  5. For horseradish sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then blend in flour until smooth, making what the French would call a roux.
  6. Add the cooked fish stock gradually, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until the sauce boils and becomes thick and smooth.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in horseradish, sugar, salt, sour cream, and eggs. Cool for 15 minutes.
  8. Pour the horseradish sauce over the chilled fish, and garnish with shredded lettuce.


Difficulty: moderate.
Time: 1 hour.
Precision: approximate measurement OK. Experiment.


Original recipe passed down through the generations and 
translated from Polish into English (with a few mods) by 
Edward Chrzanowski 
MFCF, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 
echrzanowski@watmath.waterloo.edu or {ihnp4,allegra,utzoo}!watmath!echrzanowski 
Recipe last modified: 1 Dec 87

Original header

Path: decwrl!recipes
From: echrzanowski@watmath.waterloo.edu (Edward Chrzanowski)
Newsgroups: alt.gourmand
Subject: RECIPE: Polish Wigilia 1/13: Fish in horseradish sauce
Message-ID: <12214@decwrl.DEC.COM>
Date: 14 Dec 87 19:39:35 GMT
Sender: recipes@decwrl.DEC.COM
Distribution: alt
Organization: University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Approved: reid@decwrl.dec.com

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