December 04, 2007

Mmm . . . Borscht.

I love borscht. But not the canned version!

I'll have to try this recipe. I think it might be nice with orange or yellow beets for a change; the flavor is sometimes milder with those.

The legendary Gorky's (of Hollywood and downtown L.A.) used to put just a bit of cilantro in the borscht. With a dollop of sour cream, that stuff was heaven. Yum. I may not miss socialism, but I sure miss Gorky's.

Posted by Attila Girl at December 4, 2007 12:09 PM | TrackBack

If you want it authentic, substitute pickled cabbage with its juice (from a Russian market) for the vinegar in the recipe. Vinegar is the wrong kind of sour. You can use a good sauerkraut and some of its juice in a pinch.

Posted by: Darrell at December 4, 2007 10:27 PM

1-1/2 lb non-lean beef with some bones (e.g., shanks), cut into pieces that can fit in a tablespoon;

12 Roma tomatoes

10 cups beef broth (home-made, canned, or in cartons -- not from cubes or essence)

1 bunch small beets, peeled and shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 Spanish onion, chopped

2-3 baking potatoes, peeled, cut into halves and immersed in cold water

1 cup pickled cabbage with its juice (available at Russian stores), or 1 cup sauerkraut (but pickled cabbage is really better here).

1 small head of white cabbage (sometimes available at Russian or Asian stores), or green cabbage with green outer leaves removed; cut into strips slightly wider than you would make for cole slaw or other salads

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 bunch dill, minced (tough stems removed)
4-5 cloves garlic, mashed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
vegetable oil

1. Bring the broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Immerse the tomatoes, add bay leaves, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and, using a wooden spoon, push them through a sieve to make sauce. Discard the skins, seeds, and tough stem parts that remain in the sieve. Cover the tomato sauce and set aside.

2. Add 1/2 tbsp salt to the cabbage and mix, squeezing it with your hands. As you continue cooking, turn and squeeze the cabbage every 5-10 minutes, for a total of about 4 times. Then, transfer the cabbage to a colander and let drain. This will get rid of bitter juice.

3. Add meat to the broth and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Skim off scum, add potatoes, and cover.

4. Warm vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet and saute the beets, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring them every few minutes. Add the beets to the broth.

5. Add more vegetable oil to the skillet and saute the onions for a few minutes, until they soften and become slightly translucent. Add the carrots and the bell pepper, mix and cover. Cook covered, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes. Add tomato sauce, mix, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

6. Remove potatoes from the soup and coarsely mash them with a fork or masher. No need to make a puree here, the potatoes should be in tiny pieces. Return the mashed potatoes to the soup. Add the tomato-sauce mixture and the pickled cabbage at this time. Cover the soup and let simmer for 10 minutes.

7. Add drained fresh cabbage, stir, and let simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. DO NOT cook the borscht for more than 5 minutes after adding the cabbage! It should still be slightly crunchy when the borscht is served.

8. Remove the borscht from heat. Take small amounts of mashed garlic and minced dill and pound together in a mortar. Add to the borscht. Add the rest of the garlic and dill. Stir. Adjust for salt and pepper and add some cayenne to give the borscht just a hint of spice. The borscht should be very thick (the expression goes that a large spoon should remain upright when inserted into the pot), and rich red in color.

9. One final step: cover the borscht and put it into a small enclosed space which retains heat well (such as an oven). There is no need to heat the oven -- the large stockpot will warm it just enough for the borscht to shvitz to perfection. Leave it there for about 45 minutes and up to 2 hours. Gently rewarm before serving.

Serve with dark rye and sour cream on the side. Borscht keeps well in a refrigerator for 3-4 days.

I skip the bay leaves.

Posted by: Darrell at December 4, 2007 10:29 PM

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