Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stock for Dummies; Ukrainian Borscht

It has to happen: at least once during a week focused on Nothing Beets Borscht, I have to include a borscht recipe. There are pages and pages in the cookbook about different styles of borscht, including exhortations to use fresh beets, to make it at least a day in advance, to garnish with sour cream, etc. Jane Blanksteen also says that of all the different borscht recipes, Ukrainian Borscht is the favorite.
Ukranian Borscht

(10 to 12 servings)

3 pounds ham hock
1 bay leaf
1 onion, peeled and studded with 5 cloves
1 carrot, peeled
1 celery stalk
Salt and pepper
3 quarts water

Stock Method:
1. Put all the ingredients in a large soup pot and bring liquid to a boil.
2. Turn off the heat and skim off the scum on the surface of the soup. The scum is that foamy, muddy stuff reminiscent of the foam you are likely to find at a polluted beach.
3. Now, cover the pot -- partially -- and let the soup simmer for 3 hours.
4. After 3 hours are up, let the soup cool. When it is cool enough not to scald your fingers, remove the vegetables and bay leave and the ham hock.
5. Throw out the vegetables and bay leaf, but save the ham hock. Remove all the meat from the bones and shred it with your fingers; throw out the bones.
6. Put the shredded meat in the pot.
7. Refrigerate the stock and, before you are about to use it, skim the fat off the top. It will be a solid white layer covering the stock.

Stock can be kept frozen for ages. It can also be kept on the back burner of your stove for a few days, if you bring it to a boil once in the morning and once in the evening to prevent any bacteria from being fruitful and multiplying.

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 slices bacon or some butter or shortening
2 small carrots or 1 large, peeled and sliced into small disks
1 peeled, diced turnip or parsnip
1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes or 4 small ones (can be canned)
Salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pound beets, making 2 1/2 cups when peeled and grated
1 pound white cabbage, shredded
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound kolbasa sausage or any cooked sausage you like (If you use raw sausage, first broil it or it will fall apart in the soup.)

Russians usually add a grated parsley root and a celery root along with the grated beets. If you can find either or both -- throw them in.

Borscht Method:
1. Prepare all the ingredients as directed.
2. Sauté the onion and garlic (until they are limp and white, not browned) with 2 slices of bacon or just butter.
3. Sauté, adding to the onions and bacon or butter, the carrots, turnip, tomatoes (parsley and celery roots), salt, pepper, and vinegar.
4. Add 2 cups of stock to the frying pan with the vegetables.
5. Then add the beets. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, bring the 2 quarts of stock to a boil, then add the shredded cabbage and diced potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. When the beets are ready, dump the entire contents of the pan into the stock.
8. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes to combine flavors.
9. Season to taste -- salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar.
10. Fifteen minutes before serving, add the sausage cut into the small, round slices, and simmer for 15 minutes partially covered.

Garnish: A dollop of sour cream in each bowl and some chopped dill sprinkled on top. Serve with pampooshky.

It sounds so good, it seems worth all the typing out.

Pampooshky are Ukrainian garlic rolls. The recipe for that is next in the book, but basically, it recommends buying "great, soft, eggy dinner rolls," heating them up, and serving them with a dressing of oil, garlic, salt and parsley poured over. Sounds delicious to me.

Not as appetizing: the polluted beach reference. I think "polluted beach," and I think Lake Erie in the 80s, or medical waste on the Jersey shore. When I think of foam on the beach, I think of a beautiful, grey day on the Oregon coast after a storm. So, if "polluted beach" doesn't do it for you, feel free to use my "beautiful coast after a storm" metaphor.

Though it's a long, wordy recipe, ya gotta like what basically becomes a "stock for dummies" recipe. The scum skimming, the definition of the fat layer... it's a recipe that a novice soup maker could take, use, and produce a completely-from-scratch masterpiece. Though, I'd say you'd probably want to include the ham you pulled off the hocks, adding it when you add the kielbasa.

Adapt to a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable stock, using butter instead of bacon, and leaving out the kielbasa.

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