You can approach borscht in two ways: The first is simply to simmer beets and other vegetables in broth and serve with sour cream. The second is to cook short ribs in broth, take the meat off the bones, and combine the meat and other vegetables in a substantial and irresistible soup-stew. Whichever version you do make, the central operation is dealing with the beets, which can be roasted in the oven, boiled, or cooked in the microwave before peeling and dicing. (See Roast Beets for general directions on roasting. Boiling takes about the same amount of time. Or, see tips on microwaving.) Borscht can be made with canned beets, but something essential is lost.


Complex Version

– 4 beef short ribs, about 3 pounds total.

– 1 onion, quartered.

– 2 carrots, peeled and cut into1-inch pieces.

– 2 quarts chicken broth or water.

– Bouquet garni.

Simple Version

– 2 quarts full-flavored broth.

Both Versions

– 1 onion, chopped.

– 4 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced.

– 3 cloves garlic, minced.

– 4 beets, roasted in the oven, cooked in the microwave, or boiled, until easily penetrated with a skewer, peeled and diced (see headnote).

– 6 tablespoons good wine vinegar, or more to tasteSalt.

– Pepper.

– Sour cream or crème fraîche for serving.

– 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill (optional).


Step 1:
To make the complex version, place the ribs, onion, and carrots in a roasting pan and roast in a 400°F oven for about 1 hour, or until well browned. Transfer the ribs and vegetables to a pot just large enough to hold the soup. Spoon or pour off the fat from the roasting pan, place the pan on the stove top over high heat, and add about 1 quart of the broth. Bring to a simmer and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned-on juices from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour the liquid into the pot. Add the remaining broth and the bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, or until the vegetables are soft and the meat is tender. Lift out the ribs and put aside, then strain the broth through a strainer into a clean container and discard the vegetables in the strainer. If you have time, let the broth cool, cover, and refrigerate until the fat congeals on the surface, and then lift off and discard the fat. If you are making the soup right away, use a large spoon to scoop off as much of the fat from the surface as possible. Pull the meat off the rib bones and shred; discard the bones.

Step 2:
To make the complex or the simple version, pour the broth into a pot and add the onion, leeks, garlic, and beets. Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until everything has softened. Add the vinegar to taste and the meat from the short ribs, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Pass the sour cream and dill at the table.

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