For some reason, the idea of coming in from the snowy wilderness to a warm and crackling fire with a giant pot of borscht seemed to resonate with me. I’ve never even been anywhere at a time of year when this dish would typically be served, but I had some extra beets to use up and had recently watched Rocky IV, which may be an explanation for the image conjured in my mind.
With the weather this brutally cold, this hearty stew hits the spot. Get the ingredients ahead of time, and prepare it in advance. It tastes even better after it sits for awhile and reheats wonderfully. Perfect for when you’re snowed in or just looking for a reason to appreciate the arctic temperatures.
Roasted Beet and Beef Borscht
4-5 red beets
2 oz of pancetta (or 3 slices of bacon, cut into pieces)
1 beef shin bone
1 lb beef chuck steak
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 stalk of celery, sliced
3-4 cups of pork or beef broth
1 small head of cabbage (about 1 lb), cut in thin strips of grated
2-3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 golden beet, grated (optional)
3 tbsps of red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of parsley
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp of dill seed
1/4 cup of sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub dirt from red beets and pat dry. Place tin foil around each beet and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt, pepper and thyme. Place in a baking dish and roast for an hour or until soft. Let cool. Peel and grate. (Can be done in advance.)
In large Dutch oven, heat pancetta or bacon over medium low and saute until crisp. Increase heat to medium high. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper, add to pan and brown on both sides.
Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to pan. Saute for about 3 minutes. Then add enough stock to cover meat and veggies (I used homemade pork stock because I happened to have some, but beef would probably bring out even more flavor.) Sprinkle in salt, pepper, parsley, dill seed and a bay leaf.
Let cook for about 2 hours on low, stirring occasionally. Then stir in grated beets, cabbage, potatoes and red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with some more salt and pepper.
Let cook for another 45 mins on low. By now the meat should have fallen off the bone and broken into pieces so that it mixes through. (You can can continue to cook it longer if you have the time or the meat is not tender enough.)
Remove bone, bay leaf and parsley sprigs. Taste and add additional red wine vinegar, salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into large bowls and top with a dab of sour cream and some fresh dill. Serve with some warm and crusty sourdough.
To drink: a hearty red (Bordeaux or a Zinfandel) or a stout beer would be great. Or you can always have a shot of vodka to warm you up like they do in many parts of Eastern Europe or Russia.