Classic Borscht

Classic BorschtTo Russia With Love

If you are a sports nut (guilty) this week has to rank up there with one of the best. What started on Sunday with the Superbowl will end with the Olympics where the use of the title World Champion is more appropriate than anywhere else.

I have said this before, but I will say it again, “I love the Olympics, and I love the Winter Olympics especially.” The winter version of the games is the great equalizer. The dominance that the US shows during the Summer is gone. We are no longer the perceived favorite in everything. Countries like Norway and Finland finally get there day in the sun.

I geek-out about the Olympics. For example, it has become a tradition for me to plan a meal around the country where the Olympics are being held. This was great when the Olympics were in Spain, Greece and Italy. This time around is a bit of a gastronomic challenge. I really don’t know much about Russian cuisine. (I believe this calls for some investigative cooking!)

When you think of Russian food most people think caviar, potatoes and vodka. Well, I do at least. The one other dish that immediately comes to my mind though is Borscht.

Now, I am not a friend of the beet. I think they taste like dirt. For some reason though, I like Borscht. Maybe it’s because the first time I had it was in a random little (extremely little!) Russian restaurant in San Francisco owned and operated by a Russian woman who knew what she was doing. I was skeptical at first but one taste was all it took. It was fantastic.

Borscht is not something I eat often. (Rarely would be more accurate.) The reason is this soup takes some time to make. But it is worth the effort—even if only to just try it once. It is also an excellent way to get into the Olympic spirit this weekend, and to celebrate the Opening Ceremonies.

The recipe below is my favorite. 

Recipe by Gabriella Gershenson
Adapted from Saveur

2¾ pounds trimmed pork shoulder
2¼ pounds trimmed beef chuck
10 cups beef stock
4 ham hocks
1 bouquet garni made from: 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs marjoram, 1 small leek, 1 rib celery, and 1 bay leaf, all tied with kitchen twine
1½ pound beets, roasted and cut into ¼”-thick half-moons
4 leeks, white part only, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream and dill fronds, to garnish

Bring the pork, beef, stock, ham hocks, and bouquet garni to a boil in an 8-quart, Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once it has boiled, reduce the temperature to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender for about 3 hours.

Using tongs, remove meats from broth, and transfer it to a cutting board to let cool. Discard the bouquet garni.

Cut the pork and beef into ½” chunks. Shred the meat from the ham hocks, and cut into ½” chunks. Discard the bone, skin, and excess fat from hocks.

Return the chopped meats to broth and add beets, leeks, onion, and cabbage. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until soft, for about 25 minutes.

Stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Divide among bowls, and garnish with sour cream and dill.

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