By David Waltuck — Director of Culinary Affairs
As the cold and dreary days of late January and February approach, the thought of a bowl of hearty and warming soup becomes especially appealing. When I was a kid, my Aunt Gertie, who loved to cook, would often talk about hot beef borscht with garlic — a dish that she remembered from her childhood. Although her taste memory of it was vivid, she was never able to make a version that matched the one she remembered.
What follows is my attempt at a borscht that matches the one that Aunt Gertie so fondly remembered. During colder months, we used to serve this as a staff meal at Chanterelle. Though I’m quite happy with the recipe, I always wish I could have tasted original.
Aunt Gertie’s Hot Beef Borscht
Serves 6-8 as a main course
3 pounds beef brisket
5 cups veal stock
3 tablespoons chicken or duck fat
1 large onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts chicken stock
5 cups peeled and shredded raw beets (5-6 large beets)
1/3 cup lemon juice
6 cups shredded cabbage, preferably savoy
7 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
Sour cream for garnish (not optional)
- Place beef in a large saucepot and add the veal stock. Add water if needed to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beef is tender, about two hours. Let the beef cool in the broth. Drain the meat — reserving the broth — and cut into half-inch dice.
- Heat the fat in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add the broth from the beef and the chicken stock, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add beets and lemon juice. Simmer, uncovered, until the beets are tender, about 30 minutes.
- Add beef and cabbage, bring back to a simmer and cook until cabbage is soft and beef is heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with the sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and caraway seeds (if desired). Simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavors blend, then taste and adjust seasoning as desired — the borscht should be sweet, sour and peppery. Serve topped with sour cream.
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