Or at least well-known borscht. It was a feature of Christmas dinner at
Grand Central Starport since the earliest days.
I first encountered a recipe for Ukrainian hot borscht in, of all places,
a flier that came with my electricity bill from Pacific Gas and Electric,
back when I was still in grad school. Somewhere along the line I lost it,
and started using a recipe iPlease to the Table:
The Russian Cookbook by Anya Von Bremzen, an excellent cookbook which
is now lamentably out of print. This year I just winged it.
This is more of what ysabetwordsmith calls an "algorithm"
than a recipe.
You will need:
- A Very Large Pot. It is difficult to use too large a pot. When our
older daughter was two years old, she used to play in ours. We could
have gotten the lid on. A wooden spoon long enough to reach the bottom
of the pot while you still have a good grip on the handle -- you're
going to need it.
- A large lump of meat. 3-4 lbs of beef chuck roast is a good place to
start. At various times we have also added a ham shank, marrow bones,
and ribs. Yesterday I used about 5 lbs of chuck roast and the ribs
left over from the Christmas roast beef.
- Root vegetables. Beets, of course, but also parsnips, rutabagas, and
turnips. Sometimes we add potatoes, but not this year. We had 9
rather large beets, 3 rutabagas, 3 turnips, and 2 parsnips this year.
We have sometimes used as many as 6 bunches of small beets.
- Onions, garlic, and carrots, which of course are also root vegetables.
- A head of cabbage.
- Seasoning: 6 peppercorns and 3 bay leaves. (I couldn't find the bay leaves this
year.) Sour salt, optional.
- Sour cream and fresh dill, for garnishing.
Start by cutting up the onions, chopping the garic, and sauteeing them in
olive oil. Meanwhile, brown the meat in a little more olive oil, in the
bottom of your Very Large Pot.
Combine the onion/garlic mix with the meat, and add water to cover. If
desired, throw in a whole onion and a couple of whole carrots. Put in the
peppercorns and bay leaves.
Cut the tops and tails off the beets, and put them on a baking sheet.
Turn your oven to 350 and put the beets in to roast.
Take a 45-60 minute break.
Take the beets out of the oven. Cut the rest of the roots into 1-inch
cubes. Toss the parsnips and carrots into the pot -- they take the
longest to cook.
After you've cubed the raw roots, the beets will be cool enough to
handle. Peel them (with a paring knife) and cut them into julienne
Fish the meat, bones, and whole vegetables out of the pot and put in the
rutabagas and beets.
Take another break -- about an hour. Put in the turnips (and potatoes if
you want them). Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes.
Put the meat back in the pot. Shred the cabbage and add that. Stir, if
you can. You may need to add water, too; it depends on whether there's
any room left in the pot and whether you want your borscht to be more like
a thick soup or a stew.
Let it cook for another hour or so. Drink some vodka (or gin -- I prefer
gin). If you're anything like me, your back will be hurting at this point
even if you had sense enough to sit down while chopping the roots.
About an hour after you added the cabbage, it's done. If it's too sweet,
add sour salt to taste. Add ordinary salt to taste, if you like.
Top with a glop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped, fresh dill. Enjoy.
Serves a dozen or so. For a smaller family, it provides enough leftovers
to last all week.