I’d never made borscht before but it always seemed like an appropriate winter soup. It’s not as cold here as it is back in the motherland (no not mine, the Ukrainians’), but we still get plenty of cabbage and beets around here this time of year to make a nice burgundy stew. I’m gonna have to take another photo because this one really doesn’t do it justice… it looks so much better now that the beets have had time to dye everything else purple.
The base typically includes some mix of beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and some meat. I went with a beef shank and also had the butcher cross-cut me a beef leg bone into 1″ segments to make a quick stock since I was all out.
One of the first meals few meals I can remember ever having in Los Angeles was with my friend Mark at a place called Doughboys that, after a sad turn of events, shut down a few years back. Strangely I still remember that meal vividly because I was so impressed by the beef stew… it was awesome, cheap and I just loved how it looked and felt in my mouth because everything in it was diced exactly the same size. Potatoes, carrots, celery(I think?), beef, all about 1/4″ dice. Perfection. Every time I make beef stew or anything similar, I come back to that memory for some reason and I end up dicing everything like that. This stuff tonight was a little bigger, probably closer to 1/2″ but I still always try to keep it consistent. Not only does it look cool, it also ensures that your veggies will be cooked evenly and you won’t have some soft and some hard because you cut em all wonky.
Somehow avocados are always around and always cheap here… all year. I grabbed one to throw on top of the soup along with the usual sour cream topping. I hear dill is traditional but I’m generally not a big fan of dill so I didn’t hunt it down for this one. I also had a giant daikon that I was planning to pickle so I decided to dice some of that up in the stew as well. It’s great in Japanese and Korean stews so I figured it’d go well with this mix of stuff too. It has a great texture when it’s cooked and has a very mild flavor – great filler.
First step, simmer the shank in the stock with some onion. Since the stock wasn’t on for as long as I would have liked, I threw the bones in with the shank to try to drag out a little more flavor. This simmered for about an hour and a half or so until the beef was able to pull away from the bone easily but before it was falling apart. I wanted it to still have some shape so I could give it a nice dice to match up with the veg.
After the beef was ready, I pulled it out and diced it. In went the carrots, potatoes & beets (which I think next time I’ll use a little more of). This simmered on low for about 20 minutes or so until the veggies weren’t hard anymore, but before they turned to mush. After that I tossed in the daikon and the cabbage and simmered just until the daikon was soft, which doesn’t take long.
The soup is way better if it sits in the fridge for a day before you eat it. The whole soup turns deep purple and the beet flavor is a lot more intense.
1 beef shank
4 or so cups of beef stock
1 yellow onion
3 medium carrots
3 racquetball(?) sized beets
2 medium red potatoes
2-3 fistfulls of shredded cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and avocado to top
*Next time I’ll start it out with some bacon to give it a little bit of smoke. I think I’d render the bacon in the pan till it was crispy, use the fat to saute the onion in, and keep the crispy bacon to chop up on top with the sour cream and avocado. That’s exactly what was missing – the crunchy topping. You know I love a good crunchy topping… especially when it comes in the form of smoked hog.