Tuesday, September 8, 2009

mom's Ukrainian-style borscht

While the boys were visiting my parents, mom made borscht and the boys found it appealing. When I received the news I realized that I probably haven't had it since I was a boy myself! I recall liking it very much. I thought it would be a fun dish to make with the first beets from the garden.

Courtesy of Ukraine Trek comes this description of borscht:
But especially known and most favorite dish all over the world is famous Ukrainian borsch. Borsch is cooked of the fresh vegetables: cabbage, beet, tomato with the addition of pounded lard with garlic and parsley. The combination of all these groceries give the borsch its piquancy, aroma and unforgettable taste. There are about 30 types of Ukrainian borsch (Poltava borsch, Chernigov borsch, Kiev borsch, Volyn borsch, Lviv borsch and others).
Here's mom's recipe. It lacks a few things like lard, goose fat, and garlic that I've seen in some recipes. I made the beef stock from scratch. I chose to omit the carrots because I just don't like them that much in soup. I added minced garlic near the end per this recipe, as well as fresh dill. I served it with parsley and sour cream.

Simmer 30 minutes, covered:

  • 1 pound beef chuck
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • salt, pepper, bay leaf
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 6 quart kettle. Add and saute 5 minutes:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 medium raw beets, in strips
  • 1/2 medium cabbage, shredded
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
Add 1 6 ounce can tomato paste and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Simmer 10 minutes. Add meat and broth. Simmer 1 1/2 hours. Serve with sour cream, lemon slices, parsley or dill.

For the stock I referred to the recipe in The New Best Recipe cookbook. I had two pounds of soup bones but had only a pound of chuck rather than the four it calls for. I also didn't have any red wine on hand to reduce so I used a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

As with all Cook's Illustrated recipes the experimentation and food science behind the final recipe is interesting. It takes far more beef to produce a meaty stock than chicken for several reasons: chicken flavor compounds are very strong, it's the Maillard reactions that deliver a lot of what we think of as the beefy flavor (contrast boiled beef), chicken skin and fat taste like chicken while beef fat is rich but not beefy, and chicken bones and marrow contribute chicken flavor while beef marrow contributes body but not much flavor and beef bones taste like bones.

So, my stock ended up being not as rich as it should have been but I wasn't disappointed.

A less starchy potato than would have held up a little better, but the Yukon Golds were fine. The beets were fresh from the garden and very nice.

The result was great! I suppose this must be one of my comfort foods. The boys and I enjoyed several steaming bowls while watching football on a drizzly, dreary evening. I thought the beef flavor was perfectly adequate. The beet flavor was prominent. Overall it's a magnificent combination of sweet and savory with enough richness from the stock and sour cream to be satisfyingly filling.

Cold the next day it was just as good, and perhaps even better. It was apparent, though, that I could have skimmed the fat from the stock more thoroughly. The texture wasn't ideal due to the small fat granules. Letting the stock cool enough to skim it well would have added quite a bit of time to the preparation. Maybe a solution is to let it sit for 15 minutes or so, skim enough liquid to get the fat along with some stock, and pop that into the freezer. The hot stock could be used immediately then reunited with the small amount of cold stock after the fat had been removed.

1 comment:

Jane S Poole said...

Yours looks a lot more colorful than mine ever did. Maybe I cooked it too long. Glad you and the boys enjoyed it!