My first memorable encounter with borscht was at a pot-luck party I had in San Francisco, in which my friend Elisabeth brought a huge, must have been 12 or 16-quart, pot of drop-dead delicious, deep purply red soup filled with beets.
Elisabeth’s grandparents were Ukrainian, and I think borscht was one of her favorite soups to make.
Every time I make or eat borscht I think of my friend and the discovery of how good a soup made primarily of beets can be.
The wind is howling outside, if any leaves remain on the trees they are sure to come down today. Here is a wonderfully satisfying beet borscht, perfect for a cold weather day.
The soup is best made a day ahead, giving the flavors time to meld.
- Extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 pound slice of bone-in beef shank with a lot of meat (or 1 pound of stew beef), excess fat trimmed
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 8 cups beef broth or beef stock, divided 4 cups and 4 cups
- 4 large beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, chopped
- 4 carrots (1 lb), peeled, chopped
- 1 large russet potato (.75 lb), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 cup sour cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Brown the beef, add onions: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the shank slice or stew beef. Let the beef brown lightly on one side, then turn over.
Add the chopped onions to the pot. Let the onions cook and soften, about 5 minutes.
2 Add 4 cups broth, cook until beef is tender: Pour 4 cups of beef broth over the beef and onions in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
3 While the beef is cooking, prep and roast the beets, carrots, and potato: Peel and chop the beets, carrots, and potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss the beets and carrots with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and spread them out in a single layer on a foil lined roasting pan. Roast in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes.
Toss the potatoes with olive oil and make room for them in the roasting pan, and roast everything an additional 15 minutes.
4 Remove the meat from the pot. Once the beef has cooked through until tender in step 2, remove from the pot, and take the pot off the heat. If you are using a beef shank, remove and discard any bone, connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces.
5 Skim off excess fat from the liquid in the pot.
6 Finish cooking the soup: Return the pot to the stove and add the remaining broth, the carrots, beets, and the diced potato. Add the chopped meat to the pot, the sliced cabbage, and a half cup of the fresh dill. Bring to a simmer, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the cabbage is cooked through.
Add the vinegar and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I use about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, but the amount you use will depend on how salty your beef broth is to begin with.
The soup is best made a day ahead. (The longer the soup sits by the way, the more it will all turn the deep red color of beets.)
Serve ladled into bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill.