Russian Beef and Cabbage Soup

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Although my father's family harks from the Ukraine, its my German grandmother that cooked like a Russian. Cabbage rolls were my most favorite dish of hers. Lined up in the roasting pan like lines of fat soldiers, blanketed with a thick layer of bacon, she served them on our plates accompanied with a hefty ladle of melted butter and chopped onions.

I would always scrape the filling out of those cabbage rolls, however, and undo those lovely little parcels without ever having tasted the cabbage. It didn't look like normal food, all translucent and vein-y, so I didn't eat it. How silly I was! Now I think cooked cabbage is divine, especially when its soft and stewy and married with beef.

So, this is my take on a classic cabbage soup recipe that is just as tasty as Grandma's cabbage rolls. You won't be disappointed! Its even a hit with the kids, in small doses. And, of course, true to the standard, their spoons dodge the cabbage and go straight for the carrots, beef, and broth. Fine by me! I'll eat what's leftover!

Oh, Grandma Julia. I'll always remember your cooking. And the astounding number of swear words you thought up to rhyme with Grandpa's name. And that really disturbing Christmas present, the fake _____ (rhymes with 'bird'). And... what a character you were.

Russian Beef and Cabbage Soup

serves 4 - 6

  • 1-pound beef brisket, cut into 1/2 in. pieces salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups of beef broth (bone broth is especially good here!)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 small head of savoy cabbage, cored and shredded into thin strips 1/2 cup saurkraut, rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill
  • sour cream for serving

      1. Dry beef with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-browned (5 - 7 minutes). Transfer browned beef to medium bowl. Repeat with additional 2 Tbsp oil and remaining beef, transfer to bowl.

      2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pot and place over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until soft, about 7 - 9 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

      3. Stir in beef broth and chicken broth, scraping any brown bits from pot. Stir in bay leaves and browned beef, with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

      4. Stir in carrots, cabbage and saurkraut. Cover pot partially and simmer gently until beef is tender, about 40 minutes longer.

      5. Off heat, remove bay leaves. Stir in dill, season with salt and pepper, and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

      6. Enjoy!

      Adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

      Until next month, keep cooking!

      - Amber Payet

      By: Linda Radwanski | Dec 31, 2015 04:16 AM | Permalink
      Can't wait to try this Amber! Nice article about your dear Grandmother Julia!

      By: | Dec 30, 2015 08:11 PM | Permalink
      What a wonderful recipe for Russian Beef Cabbage soup. My ancestors were from the Ukraine and I have many recipes handed down from generations to generations. Most Ukrainian cooking is from pork as pigs were easier to raise. Most of my recipes are based on pork so it was wonderful to see one that actually came from beef. I do have an authentic Ukrainian recipe for Pork cabbage soup that is made with Pork Spareribs, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, crispy diced salt pork and white beans such as navy beans. If anyone is interested I can surly post it.
      Cindy Beckey says:    (Dec 31, 2015 12:00 AM)

      I'd love to see that recipe !

      Amber Payet says:    (Dec 31, 2015 12:00 AM)

      Yes, please post it! It sounds amazing. Thank you for commenting! - Amber

      says:    (Jan 5, 2016 12:00 AM)

      I'm sorry it took me so long to post the recipe, I didn't see people posting for it until today so I will post it here for all to enjoy. UKRANIAN CABBAGE SOUP CHERYLYN MACRINA'S RECIPE Passed down from her mother CAROLINE MALINOWSKY Passed down from her mother TEKLA KROVEC List of Ingredients: 3/4 lbs "Fresh" Pork 6 quarts of water 1/4 lb of salt pork; diced 1/2 cup flour 1 can of tomatoes 1 head of cabbage cored & shredded 2 tablespoon white vinegar salt & pepper to taste 2 cups of white beans In large stock pot, place your fresh pork. Pork spare ribs cut up is what is generally used, but old fashioned spare ribs are fine as they will give you more meat in your soup, you need pork with bones. Cover your pork with enough water to completely cover it and enough for you to have broth. Bring to a boil and slowly boil for about an hour constantly skimming the foam and oil off the top of the water. While the pork is simmering you dice your salt pork making sure you cut it off the rind. Slowly fry them in a large skillet until nice and crispy brown just as you would cook bacon. Once brown, remove them onto some paper towels to remove the grease and set aside for later. DO NOT throw away the salt pork oil left in the pan as we will be using it for our rue. Next we need to make a rue; heat the oil in the skillet with very low heat and slowly add the flour, mixing until it gets incorporated into the oil and this will make a "Rue" it will be a slightly tan loose gravy. Keeping the heat low you have to slowly add small amounts at a time of the boiling stock that you have been cooking the fresh pork in into the rue mixture until the "Rue' mixture is completely mixed with several cups of the stock. Once this is done you can now combine all the mixture that is in the skillet into the stock pot with the pork. Add the remainder of the ingredients and don't forget to add your crispy salt pork pieces and simmer for several hours. Soup is ready but will taste even better the next day. Tips: The pork can be taken off the bone before you add the remainder of the ingredients as it will be very tender. but Ukrainians usually leave the bones in to give the soup more flavor as it sits over night. In today's modern time some people will use Ketchup or tomato sauce instead of canned tomatoes, and pork and beans for the white beans. Do not skip the vinegar as it gives the cabbage soup its unique flavor and the more you use the better it tastes. It also leaches out more of the flavor from the spare rib bones. Cabbage can be shredded very fine or chunky it doesn't matter as it will become very soft in the soup

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