If you need a catered company lunch that is going to conjure your grandmother’s apron strings, try Eastern European cuisine. While Eastern European food varies widely, you’ll always find comforting dishes like rich meats, hearty noodles and dumplings, and plenty of pickled and smoked things (think Russian and Polish fish, veggie, and meat dishes). Eastern European cuisine is possibly the most underrated foodie pleasure. Fortunately, food critics and upstart chefs modernizing ex-Soviet cuisines are finally recognizing its glory. In light of all this activity, we decided the time was right to highlight dishes that add a little oomph to the company table (or wherever you and your colleagues eat).
1. Tender Russian Blini
Blini are divine pancakes tucked with sweet or savory fillings. Sold as street food across Eastern Europe, the Russian pancakes go off script once the crisp, buttery cover gives way to the stash of jam (or savory filling). Perfect for a morning conference or team breakfast, savory blini can be found at Pushkin Restaurant and Russian Samovar.
2. Braised Stuffed Cabbage
If a long week is coming on, braised stuffed cabbage will work its magic on you. Called holishkes or golubtzis, stuffed cabbage are parcels of savory fillings wrapped in silky cabbage. This Eastern European food staple has been perfected across cultures and over generations, so you’ll find hundreds of variations. There are even gluten-free and vegetarian takes on the dish for the careful eaters in your office. The Polish version smells heavenly as it’s perfumed with sweet-and-sour tomato sauce. Another version is filled with pine nuts, lamb, and rice, and scented with dill. The restaurant Masha and the Bear nails a version that can totally alter the mood in the office.
3. Beautifully Smoked Sausages
When hosting hours-long company events, we need catering that can sit out while people mingle. Golden-browned sausage is tasty at room temperature and great with nearly any seasonal produce. We love the smokiness of Russian and Polish sausages. To experience Eastern European flavors the right way, order up sides of pickles to lend the rich meats a nice, acidic counterbalance. The restaurant Belvedere Polish Deli will spoil your crew with their Polish sausages.
4. Beef Stroganoff with Buttery Noodles
Of all the dishes of Eastern European cuisine, beef stroganoff has got to be the most familiar and quite possibly one of the most comforting. Quick-seared beef is tossed with buttery noodles. The sauce is made from beef drippings thickened with rich crème fraiche. If you’re in need of a portable, less-messy version of the classic for a sales meeting or a training, Southern Baked Pie Company hand-crafts a delicious beef-stroganoff pie for their ready-to-go box lunches.
5. Rich, Flaky Napoleon’s Cake
People go crazy for this cake. The top is blanketed with a “snow” of pastry crumbs symbolizing the snow that helped Russia to defeat Napoleon in the Patriotic War of 1812. One of the beauties of this Russian dessert is its cream to pastry ratio, which creates a moist, delicate cake. The alternating layers (as many as 15!) contrast the dense, rich custard and crumbly pastry. Your colleagues will be completely obsessed (here’s one of the best catering options we found).
6. Juicy, Fortifying Dumplings
America has always been a great dumpling nation. Tons of restaurants across the country offer fantastic versions, like Italian tortellini and Shanghai soup dumplings. But the ones that are going to be in your face this year, if you follow national food trends, are Eastern European dumplings. There are plenty of styles of dumplings in the Eastern European food landscape. Tasty beef- or lamb-filled Russian dumplings (pelmeni) are doused in butter and plenty of black pepper. Ukrainian dumplings (vareniki) are topped with tart cherry sauce. Large Georgian dumplings (khinkali) are shaped like money bags with sturdy knots. Georgians pick up the parcels by the knots and snip off the juicy soup dumplings with their teeth and discard the dough knots. If you have adventurous eaters at the office, or just hungry people, make sure you order enough catering (here’s a portion guide).
Need more lunch ideas for your catering order?