Sunday, February 7, 2010

Borscht and deglazing lessons

Made borscht tonight and it turned out way, way better than the one I made around last year. My wife, who hated the one I did before, was very into this and she cleaned her bowl. The one I made previously was a kosher vegetarian one, whereas this one was Ukranian and neither kosher nor vegetarian (pork sausage and sour cream). I think the big difference is that I straight up pureed the beets though, which changes the whole experience completely.

If winter's got you in that weird russian mood I'm in, here's how you can make this. You'll need:

  • 1 pound bratwurst, kielbasa, or other pork sausage, casing removed and chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 4 beets, peeled and chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sour cream, for topping
  • dill, dried or fresh, for topping
Start by browning off your meat in a big pot or dutch oven. Once its browned, remove to a dish and put away. You should have some gunk on the bottom of your pan, which you can then deglaze to remove from the bottom. Since I'm a nice guy, I even put in a video segment on how-to deglazing. It's one of the nicer ways to up your skill and the flavor of whatever you make:

Add your butter and get the heat to near-high. Pop cumin seeds, then add your aromatics (onion, bell pepper, carrot) and salt. Drop the heat to low and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add your beets, maybe a cup of your stock, and thyme, and continue simmering for another 20 minutes. From here, dump all that jazz into your food processor and spin it up. Beets are jerks and they're very hard and need to be destroyed without mercy, so we'll let the heat do half the work and the blades to the rest. Make a puree out of that crap.

Return the puree to the pot, add the rest of your stock, paprika, pepper, sugar, lemon juice, and bay leaf. Add your potatoes. Bring up the temp to a near-boil, and back off to a simmer. Cover, and cook down for another 20 minutes. (yes it takes forever but its worth it in the end) When that's done, taste and adjust your seasoning. Add your sausage back to the pot and give it all a good stir.

You're ready to serve. Now, if you're just famished go ahead and eat it, but borscht is tricky. It's supposedly best the day after, and you can either eat it hot, or some swear it's better cold. I really like it either way. No matter, dollop some sour cream into it and add dill at the end. If you're fully embracing the russian spirit, blare some Red Army Choir and throw back shots of vodka. That's optional.

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