Russian borsch: Made the way a mother would
If you ever open your own Russian restaurant, “be prepared for a lot of opinions about what makes for a good borsch,” said chef Bonnie Frumkin Morales in Kachka (Flatiron Books). That’s been our experience at Kachka: We get a lot of furrowed brows whenever it briefly disappears from our menu, and, because we’re in Portland, Ore., not Russia, a lot of expressions of shock that borsch has meat in it. And that, at least in Russia, it’s spelled without a final ‘t.’
I—“like every good Russian”—learned to make borsch from my mom, and except for a few tweaks, the recipe below is pretty much hers. “Of course, in my opinion, it’s the best version out there.”
Recipe of the week
Short rib borsch
¼ cup canola or peanut oil
2½ to 3 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
2 large red beets, scrubbed thoroughly
2 quarts beef stock
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
Heat a large stockpot over high heat and add oil. Season short ribs all over with kosher salt. When pot is hot, add ribs and brown to a dark sear on all sides, working in batches. (Make sure the sear on the pot’s bottom doesn’t burn.) When all ribs are browned, set them aside.
Discard excess grease from pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until caramelized (about 30 minutes). Add beets and beef stock. Bring stock to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until beets are half cooked, about 1 hour. Carefully remove beets from pot and set aside to cool. Return short ribs to pot and cook at gentlest simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hours, until they are falling-apart fork-tender. Taste about halfway through cooking; add salt as needed.
When beets are cool enough to handle, peel with a paring knife and then grate coarsely, using a box grater.
When short ribs are fully cooked, taste soup; add salt as needed. Remove ribs using a slotted spoon. Add potatoes to soup and simmer until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pull meat off short ribs, removing any connective tissue. Chop meat into bite-size chunks. When potatoes are cooked, stir meat and grated beets and carrot into pot. Turn off heat and allow pot to cool—as it cools enough to go in the refrigerator, the vegetables will keep cooking. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove fat from top of borsch. Reheat borsch and ladle into bowls. Add garnishes: a dollop of smetana or sour cream, sliced scallions, and chopped fresh dill. (To me, it’s not borsch until spicy mustard is also mixed in.) Serves 6 as a main.