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As far as beef goes, soups and stews have been the way to eat up the less tender bits since the dawn of time.  It’s perfect for those tasty little nubbins, because those bits have the most flavor.  With most meats there is an inverse relationship between tenderness and flavor.  Sure, a filet mignon melts in your mouth, but nothing beats the beefy flavor of a pot roast or seared flank steak!

For a special treat, I braised a lovely grass fed chuck roast earlier in the week and making a big ol’ pot of borscht seemed perfect for my leftovers.  I bulked up my borscht with some potatoes, making it more of a hearty stew, all the better for filling up hungry men!  If you have a lot of hungry hungry hippos to feed, a loaf or two of fresh bread would help to stretch this soup out.

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For all that it’s a big, chunky, man-pleasing beef stew, the little girl inside of me loves that this soup is pink as pink could be!  Beets have that way of turning EVERYTHING fuchsia, like your hands, cutting board and whatever dish you happen to use them in.  Whenever I cook with beets, I always have to run around my kitchen doing my best Lady Macbeth “Out! Out! Damn spot!” impression before I wash all the pink off my hands.  (If you’re a fancy person that can’t risk going to work with pink hands, I would recommend wearing gloves when preparing beets.)

Borscht – served with faux creme fraiche

Serves 4-6 – cost approx $1.02 per serving

Ingredients

  • 12 oz beef – cooked leftovers or raw stew meat, doesn’t matter… ($2.50)
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled, 1/2 inch dice ($.30)
  • 2 Tbs veg oil, olive oil or bacon grease, your choice!
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced ($.25)
  • 1/3 head of cabbage, thinly sliced ($.66)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste ($.13)
  • salt
  • 1 15 oz can beets, drain and reserve the juice thinly slice the beets into matchsticks ($.79)
  • 2 Tbs minced parsley
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream ($.25)
  • 1-2 tbs lemon or lime juice
  • pinch salt

Put the beef in a large pot and fill with about 8 cups water (about half way up the pot), bring to a simmer.  If your beef is already cooked, simmer for a just a half an hour to an hour to make the meat fall apart tender.  If you’re starting with raw beef, simmer for a few hours to make it fall apart tender.  This is an excellent step to do in the slow cooker while you go about your busy day, I would put the cooked beef on low for 4-6 hours and raw beef on high for 6-8 hours.

Begin with the other ingredients of the stew about an hour before you want to eat.  Put the potatoes in to simmer with the beef.  (If you’re using the slow cooker, crank it up as high as it goes, or whatever setting makes it go at a nice simmer, and put the potatoes in about 2 hrs before you want to eat.)  Add in the reserved pink juice drained off of the beets.

Heat the 2 Tbs of the fat of your choice over medium heat in a large saute pan, and cook the cabbage, onion and garlic for 10-15 minutes.  Add in the tomato paste to the sauteing veggies and cook another 5 minutes, forming some good brown crud on the bottom of your pan.  Add the veggies to the cooking beef and potatoes.  Take a ladle of the beefy broth from the pot (or crock pot) and put it in your saute pan so that you can loosen up and scrape off all those browned bits and then pour it back into the soup.   Add in the sliced beets.  Let simmer for another 20-30 minutes to meld the flavor, check the seasonings and add salt to taste.   Finish the soup by adding in the red wine vinegar to give it a pleasant tangy flavor and the minced parsley.

For the faux creme fraiche, mix up the sour cream, citrus juice and a pinch of salt.  You can add a little bit of water too to make it a nice, pourable, yogurt-like consistency.  Put a nice dolop on top of your soup and dig in!  Or you can put it in a squeeze bottle so you can play Jackson Pollock on the top of your soup bowl!  I’m a big proponent of fun and interactive food. 🙂

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