With the Olympics in Russia just days away, Secrets of a Home Cook had a hankering for borscht. It’s soup made with beets hence the vibrant crimson color with its origins cutting a wide path through Eastern Europe and Russia. So many variations, hot cold, with meat, without, tomato sauce, beans; different countries and ethnic backgrounds all have their own take on borscht. This left the door wide open to find the one that was just right for SHC and after a thorough peruse on the internet, The Kitchn’s recipe was just right. It’s really nothing more than veggie soup, light and luscious with a few secret ingredients and a few additional home cooks tweaks. It’s as traditional as it is contemporary and not your Bubby’s borscht.
Secret ingredient: When it comes to flavoring vegetable soup, dried mushrooms add a powerful punch and another layer of vegetable flavor. Give the mushrooms a rinse first to remove any grit, and then soak them in hot water to reconstitute their texture. The soaking liquid is just as important in flavoring the soup as the mushrooms.
Puree options: Many vegetable soups such as borscht start out as a big pot of chopped up hard root veggies. The cooking process softens them, but they’ll still need a whirl with a blender to blend it all together. If you’re using a blender, make sure the soup is cooled to room temperature or the heat will cause the soup to spew all over the place. Secrets of a Home Cook prefers an immersion blender, a hand held device that can be placed right into the soup pot for quick and easy pureeing, even when it’s hot.
About crème fraiche: Traditional borscht is topped with a dollop of sour cream, a nice touch to balance out the acidic soup. Crème fraiche, a French cousin to sour cream is thicker, richer and naturally sweeter thanks to the base of full fat cream. Worth the dollop any day!
- 1 ounce dried assorted mushrooms, rinsed
- 1-cup hot water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large (1 pound) sweet onion (Vidalia), peeled and chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 large (1 pound) potato (Russet), peeled and chopped
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 bunch (1 ½ pounds) red beets, peeled and chopped
- Small handful of fresh dill, chopped
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 6 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 8-ounce container crème fraiche
- 4-6 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Place mushrooms in a small bowl and pour 1 cup of hot water over to soak. Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat oil and add onions, garlic, potato, carrots and beets. Cook for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until soft. Add dill, lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mushrooms and soaking liquid and water or stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes. Add salt, a teaspoon at a time to check and adjust the seasoning.
- Using an immersion blender, puree soup in the pot. Serve in bowls with a dollop of crème fraiche and crumbled bacon.