This month our book club discussed a book by a Russian author, so we decided on a Russian menu. Our host made Circassian chicken. Something like this, I guess, so it turns out to be more Turkish than Russian, but we all enjoyed it. Another member brought blinis with caviar and sour cream. I decided on Borscht as the quintessential Russian dish.
Like many folk recipes, Borscht is more a technique than a single recipe. I did some research and pulled together what I think was the best of them. It certainly was delicious, and you make it in a single pot, which is always a plus.
Start by making beef broth from some short ribs and canned beef (or chicken) broth. Begin by browning the ribs.
Then in go the usual aromatics, as well as spices, herbs, and, of course, anchovies.
Simmer this for 2-3 hours until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Skim the froth periodically to keep the broth reasonably clear.
Remove the meat and let it cool. Discard the vegetables. Strain the broth through cheesecloth, let it stand until cool, then defat it.
Meanwhile, grate the beets and carrots, finely chop the onions and potatoes, slice the leeks and cabbage, and make up a cheesecloth sachet of herbs and spices. The vegetables are sautéed in batches, and then all united back in the pot to cook for an hour.
Remove the sachet, stir in the now chopped meat. Warm through and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill.
Based mostly on a recipe by Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
3 lb Beef short ribs
2 onions, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” lengths
3 sticks celery, cut into 3” lengths
1 head garlic, cut through the middle
2 bay leaves
3 anchovies, chopped
8 cups beef stock
1/2 tablespoon juniper berries
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
2 dill sprigs
2 oregano sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
Wrap in cheesecloth and tie with string
4 large or 6 medium beets, washed, peeled and grated in a food processor
A healthy glug of red wine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used verjus, because I had some)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 carrots, grated
2 leeks, sliced into half moons
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” pieces
½ head of small cabbage, cored and sliced in a food processor
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
Garnish: Sour cream and fresh sprigs of dill.
Make the Stock
Salt the ribs, brown them in batches in a Dutch oven and remove to a plate. Add onion, carrots and celery and deglaze the pot with a splash of red wine. Add garlic, anchovies, bay leaves and stock and bring to a boil. Return the ribs to the pot. Cover and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, removing foam, until the meat is very tender (2-3 hours).
Remove and cool the ribs. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth sieve and defat it. Discard the vegetables and bones. Chop the meat into ½” dice, discarding big lumps of fat and connective tissue. Wipe out the Dutch oven.
Make the Soup
Sauté grated beets in the Dutch oven for 5 minutes with a little oil and a splash of vinegar, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp tomato paste. Sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (~10 min). Remove to a plate.
In the same Dutch oven, sauté onion in 1 tbsp butter until transparent. Add leeks and grated carrot and sauté until softened (~5 min). Remove to the same plate.
Sauté the cabbage in 1 tbsp butter in the Dutch oven until it wilts. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the stock. Add the herb-spice sachet, the cooked vegetables and the potatoes. Add more stock or water if necessary.
Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove the sachet. Stir in the vinegar and the chopped beef, and warm through. Check the seasoning.
Serve hot with fresh sprigs of dill and a dollop of sour cream.