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KotW: Unbelievably Complicated Borscht January 28, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, chicken, holidays, Kip of the Week, potatoes, poultry, soups and stews.
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If you’re like me, your early experience of borscht was with the over-refined broth often served as a starter course for Jewish holiday dinners. It looks like cranberry-grape kool-aid and tastes like a nondescript root vegetable; if you’re lucky it’s elaborated with a few shreds of beet or carrot; and if you garnish it with sour cream it’s not bad, really.


With a tip of the chef’s hat to my old pal Harriett, I give here the recipe for the reason the Soviet Army beat the Waffen-SS; the borscht that was in the fuel tanks of the first Sputnik; borscht that could make a chronic emphysema patient run the high hurdles.  Plan about three days ahead to make an eight-quart pot of this stuff, which will take hours and cost you serious money. And when it’s done and boiling, if a wooden spoon won’t stand up in the middle of the pot, you missed the bullseye.


3- to 4-pound whole chicken
one large yellow onion
Seasoning as for Roast Chicken

Season the chicken and stuff it with the peeled onion. Roast it till done, but moist; water the roasting pan (at least) midway through so the drippings don’t burn.  Put the chicken in a bowl to catch the draining juices, and allow it to cool.  Strip the chicken (don’t be compulsive about getting the last of the meat off the carcass) and refrigerate the meat.


bones and skin of the chicken
pan drippings and collected juice
onion from cavity, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
bay leaf
1 clove garlic, smashed but not skinned

Put all the above in an 8-quart stockpot and cover it with 6 quarts boiling water, then simmer for several hours — I let it bake overnight in a 225-degree oven. Refrigerate until you can remove the fat easily, 24 to 36 hours.  Meanwhile


1 bunch fresh beets (4 to 8 beets depending on size) with greens

Cut the greens off the beets.  Stem the greens and wash them THOROUGHLY in 2 or 3 changes of cold water.  Boil the beets in lightly salted water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Shred the greens.  Let the beets cool slightly, peel and chop them.  Put beets and greens into a tightly covered plastic container and refrigerate.


two pounds meaty beef short ribs (2-3 ribs)
two or three yellow onions skinned & diced
one or two peeled baking potatoes
one tablespoon oil
the stock from step two

Skim the fat off the stockpot. Lots of stock will stick to the stocktrash, so let it drain into a colander into a big bowl.  Discard the stocktrash. Wash out the 8-quart pot and brown the beef ribs in it; remove them to a plate.  Discard some of the fat, add the oil, brown the onions till golden.  Put the ribs on top of the onions, then strain in the stock through a fine strainer.  Bring to a simmer, cover and let simmer (not boil) for 3 to 4 hours.  Add the potatoes for the last hour. Meanwhile


four carrots
six stalks celery
half a small green cabbage
four to six cloves garlic

Pare the carrots and cut them into chunks.  Wash and slice the celery.  Dice the cabbage.  Shred the reserved chicken.


Remove the beef ribs from the broth and let them cool, separate and shred the meat, and discard the bones and surplus tissue.  If you have a food processor, chop the garlic, then add the potatoes and a couple of cups of stock till everything is a thin smooth slurry.  If you don’t, mash the potatoes, press the garlic, and combine them while you add stock; the result won’t be as evenly thick but will still work.

Add the chicken, beef, potatoes and garlic, and beets to the broth and let simmer 30 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery and let simmer 10 minutes, stirring.
Add the beet greens and cabbage, bring to a slow boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring.  Serve.

There you have it, comrades; the borscht of commissars. And personally, I think topping this with sour cream would be like gilding a tank, but who am I to tell you what to do?  Enjoy, you’ve worked for it.

Plain Ordinary Borscht

So now you’re saying “Kip, only a maniac would go through that.”  And I look haplessly about the room for the maniac in question, and concede that you might be right.  I pretty much guarantee that if you make borscht from the elaborate recipe once a year, after a year, you will be so hungry for it that you will resign yourself to performing those miracles again.

But what if you just want, you know, borscht, and you don’t want it to take three days, but you certainly won’t stoop to the Manischewitz stuff in the jug in the supermarket?  Well…

For the carcass stock above, substitute four quarts of box stock.  If you do that, you might want to dice up a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs to give the stock some substance; and season it generously.

The irreducible minimum for borscht is:

    Stock containing one kind of meat
    a second kind of meat (as noted, beef short rib is great, but you can use beef chuck or pork shoulder)
    beet greens
    a little garlic
    assertive seasoning.

With that as a base, you’ve actually got some latitude.  You can include the potatoes, or not.  You can add tomatoes, which traditional cooks in very old countries might sniff at, but they’re still good.  You can use other greens in addition to the beet greens; I’ve made fabulous borscht with kale.  You can add parboiled lentils.  You can add canned white beans.  If you use your imagination, you may arrive at something that some people wouldn’t call borscht, but so long as you call it delicious, there’s no harm done.  Enjoy!

A Note on Toppings

Contemporary supermarket sour cream needs to loosen up a little bit.  Stir in a little half-and-half or whole milk, while you watch the texture carefully — you want it still thick enough to stand up when it’s applied.  A little grated horseradish is a good addition.  Alternatively, use paprika, and use enough that you can taste it!

Another direction: a good slug of basil pesto, or walnut pesto, to top each serving.

© /KC January 2009


Christmas dinner, summarized. December 26, 2008

Posted by sarawr in baking, dessert, entertaining, herbs & spices, holidays, menu, potatoes, poultry.

From a comment I left over on Kip’s journal:

Mine was a 13+ pound turkey, brined 15 hours in a stockpot full of lukewarm water and 1.5 cups salt. Drained, blotted dry, stuffed with the giblets and a purple onion; sage butter spread very lightly (about a tablespoon total) under the skin, salt and pepper rained over the top. I set it atop about 2 cups of halved baby carrots, more diced onion, and a couple of stalks of sliced celery to make a vegetable rack, dusted more sage over the whole shebang, and popped it in a 425F oven uncovered for about 3 hours.

It was… the best turkey I’ve ever encountered, if I’m being honest instead of modest, and it will live on in my memory as a sort of Platonic ideal turkey. It came out cooking-magazine-golden with crisp skin all over, incredibly juicy, and flavorful in the way that you could taste the turkey instead of a bunch of seasoning.

I didn’t save the carcass to make stock because I had no room anywhere to store it and I wasn’t energetic enough to jump right into stockmaking last night or this morning, but I think I’m gonna do the whole thing over next month and I’ll make stock then. The more I experiment with whole poultry, the better I get at it, and while stockmaking has turned out to be something I don’t particularly enjoy, it is well worth it.

I let my mom take home the leftover stuffing, vegetables (I made green beans and corn, both with lemon butter), potatoes, etc. The potatoes were a dream as well (I used a borrowed electric mixer to whip them with cream cheese, sour cream, plenty of butter, and parsley — not “health food” by any stretch, but gosh, were they ever tasty), but I made far too much and didn’t want to hassle with separation and storage. We’ve got a good-sized Tupperware full of leftover turkey, and if I want more potatoes or veg to go with it we have plenty of those too. I think the only thing I forgot was cranberry sauce, but on balance it wasn’t really missed.

I made a strawberry-margarita cheesecake (which turned out kind of disappointing; it was tasty, but not the heavenly goodness it usually is) and a blueberry cheesecake (for which I had to invent my own recipe, because the ones I found all called for ingredients or equipment I didn’t have) for dessert, and the blueberry was the undisputed winner… although it came out more like pudding than pie, due to my absentmindedly taking it out of the oven 20 minutes before I should have.

On balance, the meal was a roaring success. We had plenty of food for everyone, and everyone seemed to like it; I got to experiment with a turkey (which I hadn’t done before, really) and have it turn out brilliantly on the first try; I did some baking, which isn’t something I particularly love, but was fun nonetheless.

ETA: How is it that we didn’t have a tag for potatoes? You can bet I fixed that right quickly!

How was your Christmas food, Schizoids? The comment section awaits!

KotW: Roast Poultry, Part Two: Stockmaking November 28, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, poultry, soups and stews.

In these days of chicken nuggets and microwave popcorn, stockmaking is nearly a lost art and — worse yet — sounds as if it deserves to be. The mere idea of taking an awkward, grease-coated poultry carcass, putting it in a pot with cold water, vegetables, and seasonings, and heating it carefully for four to 12 hours sounds so… pre-Civil War. Or at least pre-World War II. But I am here to single-handedly (it sounds so much better than “single-voicedly”) call for a renewed national interest in stockmaking; and I have two reasons you can’t possibly ignore.

1) As I write, good-quality commercial poultry stock costs between $2.50 and four dollars a quart. A large chicken carcass will make two to three quarts of stock, and a turkey carcass will make four to six, which — even after adding in the cost of vegetables, seasonings, and cooking — will go a long way toward reimbursing you for the bird. Argue with free meat!

2) Even without the economic argument, stock that you can make is better than what you can buy, anyway. And if you have fresh or frozen stock, you’re at least halfway to making soup, which is a terrific idea in general.


6- to 8-quart thick-walled pot (not iron) and lid
mesh colander
eight-quart mixing bowl
mesh strainer
slotted spoon


chicken or turkey carcass with skin and shreds of meat, broken into small pieces
reserved pan drippings and bits
juice from platter, if any
1 large onion, peeled and sliced or grated, from cavity or fresh
2-3 carrots, rinsed, topped and sliced or grated (no need to pare)
2-3 stalks of celery, rinsed and sliced thin, with leaves
2 cloves of garlic, skins on, smashed
2 bay leaves

Following the roasting directions I posted earlier will give you a carcass ideally seasoned for stockmaking. Bring 3 to 6 quarts of water (depending on size of carcass) to a boil in the pot, add ingredients and cover. Bring the pot to a boil again, but don’t leave it there; either reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the stock on the top of the stove for four to six hours, or leave it covered in a 225deg oven for 12 to 18 hours. The oven method produces more substantial stock, if it’s practical for you.

The temperature of a stockpot is very important, and should be verified with a meat thermometer if you have any doubt. Less than 170deg — or 180deg to be sure — isn’t safe; more than 205deg will begin bubbling, break up the sediment and sludge that should stay at the bottom of the pot, cloud the stock, make it bitter, and force you to strain it through cheesecloth or fine mesh before you use it. If you keep the temperature well below boiling, the sediment will stay at the bottom and you can pour the clear stock off the top through an ordinary plastic mesh strainer. If your recipe needs better filtration than that, use the plastic mesh strainer and then a fine wire strainer. Beyond that, I refer you to the arduous chemical methods lovingly set forth in classic French cookbooks. Bear in mind that severe filtration will lessen flavor.

Set up a colander in a big steel mixing bowl. Take the stockpot out of the oven or off the heat. With a slotted spoon or something like it, scoop all the solid trash from the stockpot into the colander, and let the stock drip off the trash into the bowl, which should take about half an hour. Discard the trash, rinse the colander, put the colander back in the bowl, and pour the rest of the stock through it; this will take out the last few big pieces. Take out the colander and empty it again. Rinse and wipe out the pot and pour the stock from the bowl, through the strainer, back into the pot.

Refrigerate the stock for 24 to 48 hours, remove the fat, optionally strain the stock one last time, and use it or freeze it in Ziplocs.

© /KC November 2008

KotW: Fennel, Potato and Prosciutto Soup September 3, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, poultry, soups and stews.
1 comment so far

In late summer or early fall you’ll find the magic moment for this soup — when you can still pick tender fennel bulbs out of your garden or buy them in a produce market, but your evenings will be cool enough that you’ll welcome a dish that’s hot and satisfying without being heavy.

3 quarts flavorful chicken stock (carcass stock or low-sodium organic box stock)
2-3 chicken thighs skinned

3-4 medium to large fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons butter

4 cups (packed) fennel fronds pulled off stems
1 cup stock out of the pot
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup cream cheese

3 to 8 potatoes, depending on size and type, peeled and diced
3 ounces prosciutto, diced

Bring stock to boil. Add chicken pieces and allow to simmer till meat is tender. Remove chicken pieces, let cool slightly, shred meat and return shreds to stock.

Clean fennel bulbs and fronds VERY carefully. Slice bulbs thin and cook slowly in butter till tender. Add potatoes and prosciutto to stock and leave on fast simmer.

Put fennel fronds, then cream cheese, then yogurt, then stock in food processor and puree to neon-green mush. Turn out mixture into sieve over cup or bowl and press mixture till dry. Set bowl aside. Discard pulp in sieve. Rinse food processor tank, then puree sauteed fennel and pan juices. Add fennel to stock.

When potatoes are nearly done, bring soup to boil, add fennel/dairy mixture from bowl and stir just until combined. Serve with toasted chunks of a sourdough baguette or ciabatta.

© /KC September 2008

KotW: Chicken Yassa. July 28, 2008

Posted by sarawr in African food, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, poultry.

This week’s post by Kip is, uh… actually last week’s post by Kip, because I was insanely busy last week. It’s worth the wait, though, I promise — this is, hands-down, the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. I promise you guys will love it.

This is from the Casamance in Senegal, is about the best barbecued chicken ever, and is a beautiful introduction to African food. If you serve this to guests, it’ll knock their socks off.

Two pointers right up front. First, once this is all together, you need to let it marinate refrigerated overnight, so this is a start-the-day-before recipe. In Africa, long marinating copes with the fact that free-range chicken can be tough! In the United States it answers just the opposite — battery-raised chicken doesn’t taste like much. Second, this really, really is best if you’re able to grill it; the other cooking methods work, but that little bit of char and crunch puts this dish over the top.

six tablespoons peanut, corn or canola oil
one chicken cut into serving pieces (yes, you can use boneless breasts and thighs, but this is a lot better with bones and skin)
four to eight onions, roughly chopped
half a cup mixed citrus juice — lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit; fresh-squeezed if feasible
half a cup cider vinegar or rice vinegar
two bay leaves
four to eight cloves garlic, minced
one-third cup Dijon mustard
one or two tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
one serrano pepper, or other fresh medium-hot pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (not jalapeno which loses flavor when cooked)
flaked red pepper (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste — it may not need any)
one small green cabbage, cut into chunks
four to six carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

The amounts of onion, fruit juice, garlic and hot pepper given here look excessive. No way. More the better.

Combine everything except the cabbage and carrots in a glass or stainless bowl or enamel casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Cook the chicken until it’s ALMOST, not quite, done:

    over a charcoal fire or
    on a gas grill or
    in a hot oven or
    in hot oil in a skillet, just about in order of preference.

Try for nice browning in any case.

While the chicken is cooking, scoop the onions out of the marinade and sauté them for a few minutes, in a pan big enough for the finished dish. Add the cabbage and carrots and remaining marinade and bring to a slow boil. Add the chicken pieces, cover and simmer until the chicken and the carrots are done.

Serve with white or brown rice or, better yet, couscous.

(c) July 2008 /KC

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Three. July 17, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, poultry.
1 comment so far

ZIA RISING: Chicken with Red Chile and Vinegar

Zia is the blazing light of noon, but not only that. In his all-seeing arc over the land, Zia is also the scarlet of sunrise and sunset — and of the red chile.

The red pepper is an altogether deeper thing than the green one, more mature, more complex. Above all the dried red pepper, brought forth and ripened and then shrunk to a husk by Zia himself, has irresistible power that we must invoke with respect and care. As green chile stew is rapture in a bowl, the dish called carne adovada is transcendence on a plate. This testimony to the red chile, if made right, is unforgettable.

Wherever the Spanish conquerors went, they took the adobo way of cooking with them. “Adobo” is the Spanish word for “marinade,” and to cook with it may at first have been primarily a way to preserve cooked food in hot climates. But the potent standard flavorings of adobo — garlic, onion, vinegar, bay leaves, and black or red pepper — with long simmering become a sauce for meat or poultry that is absolutely addictive.

Adobo was brought to many countries, and those countries in turn contributed to it. The chicken adobo of the Philippines, the pork adobado of Spain and the carne adovada of New Mexico are all quite different — and all utterly delicious. But only in New Mexico did adobo become the central dish of the feast of the Sun God. Get out your six-quart or eight-quart stewpot, and make this if you dare!


Some respectful disclaimers. Carne adovada in New Mexico is usually made with chunks of fresh pork shoulder — but that means a whole lot of boning, skinning, and hacking. In fairness you should then also use those bones and trimmings, together with the trimmings of the vegetables, to make stock… you see how much work this is! If you want to do it that way I’m not stopping you, any more than I’d stop myself; but this recipe is for pollo adovado, made with dark meat chicken that you only have to half-thaw and chop. In the interest of time, this recipe also assumes you have a food processor. And even so, you have to start preparing this either the night before, or on the morning of the day you want to serve it.

6 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (usually, one warehouse-store bag)

Take these out of the freezer to half-thaw for easy chopping.

12-16 dried red chile pods, medium or hot
2 cups boiling water

Top the peppers, tip out and discard the seeds that will come out, rip the pods into chunks and chop them in a food processor. When you have fine flakes, slowly pour in the boiling water until the peppers are smooth slurry. Pour this into the six-quart pot to let it develop.

10-12 cloves garlic
two large yellow onions, chopped

In the food processor, mince the garlic. When all the garlic is on the walls of the tank, add the onions and pulse — until you have minced onions, not onion slush! Add this to the pot.

2 cups factory marinara sauce or diced tomatoes
Santa Fe, Bueno or Chimayo red chile powder as appropriate, see below
one-half cup flour
2 teaspoons (or more) ground cumin
2 teaspoons (or more) leaf oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

How much chile powder you use depends very much on how hot the powder is, and how hot you want the finished dish; but you always want the deep flavor of the pepper to come through along with the heat. For hot chile powder the right amount could be as little as a couple of tablespoons, for mild powder it could be as much as half a cup. Remember that in classic New Mexico cooking, chile powder can actually be intended to thicken the sauce.

Combine all the ingredients, process until smooth and add to the pot. Finally, spin

1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

in the food processor to rinse out the tank, and add that to the pot.

The chicken thighs
one cup (two four-ounce cans) diced mild green chiles
two to four bay leaves

Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, adding it to the pot as you go. Add the diced green chiles and the bay leaves. Mix it with your hands, and I mean really massage it, maul it, make sure every side of every piece of meat is touched by the mixture. Then either

    cover and refrigerate overnight, or

    (assuming the chicken is still fairly cold) allow it to sit at room temperature for three to four hours.

Preheat your oven to 350° and bake this for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Toward the end of the cooking time, taste an occasional piece of chicken to make sure it doesn’t get overdone — you want each bite to be perfectly tender but not broken or stringy.

Finally, if necessary, use red flake pepper, El Pato tomato sauce, sriracha, or comparable heat to make this as hot as you want it. There should be plenty of sauce, but if you want more, add a couple of cups of chicken stock. Serve with hot white rice or warm flour tortillas, or both.

I have, I swear, made a double recipe of this in a 12-quart pot for a small Christmas party, and had it completely vanish in an hour. Good luck with yours!

(c) /KC July 2008