Q: What would the Swedish Chef say if he were Russian?
A: Borscht, borscht, borscht.
Maybe it’s the sudden chill in the air, but I had to have borscht. Actually, more likely, it was because I tried Clotilde’s beet soup (the one with the anchovies), which was very good indeed, but do you know what would have made it better? Big chunks of meat. Cabbage is an added bonus.
My photography skills, it seems, have met their match in the ugly department. Luckily, I didn’t have to try too hard to get this prince of a shot.
But no one makes borscht for show. It’s good, hearty eating when the wind is blisteringly cold. It renders once-tough, gristly meat into ribstickingly tender morsels in a broth that’s both sweet and sour. There’s a lot of it, and it’s pretty forgiving. You can add potatoes, you can skip the cloves, you can just dump in the whole can of tomato paste so the rest of the can doesn’t fester in the fridge for three weeks. Who cares? We like it warm with a whopping dollop of sour cream.
So, find your ugliest bowl, don a sweat suit, and don’t bother to shower. Here’s my recipe, just in case you don’t judge borscht by its cover.
2 medium beets
2 lbs. chuck beef, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 onion, halved
6-8 cups water
1 small cabbage, cored, quartered, and shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup white vinegar
½ bunch parsley stems
3 springs thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place beets in small roasting pan, cover with foil, and roast until done, about an hour. Let cool, peel, and chop into bite-sized cubes.
Meanwhile, in a heavy pot with a lid, add meat with water to cover by 1 inch. Press cloves into onion halves and add to pot. Bring to simmer, cover, and continue to simmer over low heat until tender, about 2 hours. Remove and discard onions (and cloves). Remove the meat from the broth and set aside.
To the broth, add the beets, cabbage, carrots, tomato paste, and vinegar. With kitchen string, tie together the parsley stems, thyme, and bay leaf (this makes it easier to remove later), and add to pot. Simmer 30 minutes. Add back the meat, and cook another 30 minutes over low heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream.