This borscht is a mash-up of several different recipes in my collection. I love the brilliant color and vibrant flavors. The best part is the mashed garlic, stirred in just at the end so it's still barely tamed when it reaches your bowl and has to be quelled with abundant sour cream.
T. Susan Chang for NPR
T. Susan Chang for NPR
Makes 4 servings
2 pounds beef shank or shin bones, with meat
1 large onion, sliced across the equator
3 whole cloves
1 medium carrot, peeled and halved
1 medium rib celery, halved
2 tablespoons butter
4 small beets, trimmed, peeled and grated
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 celery root, trimmed and diced
1/4 small head cabbage, grated
1 waxy potato (Yukon gold), peeled and chopped in 1/3-inch dice
5 cloves garlic, mashed or pressed
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Finely chopped dill
For the broth, place the beef, onion, cloves, carrot and celery in a stockpot with cold water to cover. Bring just to a simmer. Let it simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the beef falls willingly off the bone. If the liquid level falls during the simmer and exposes the ingredients, top it off with a little water until it's just covered again. Strain the broth into a clean soup pot and keep it at a low simmer. Set the meat aside and discard the remaining solids. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred into 1/2-inch pieces and add it back to the broth.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the grated beets and cook, turning occasionally, until just softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the orange juice and bring to a simmer. Add the beet-orange mixture to the soup pot.
Rinse out the skillet and dry it with a paper towel. Heat the olive oil in the skillet until it shimmers and add the diced onion, carrot and celery root. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the mixture until the flavors just begin to mingle, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the soup pot.
Add the grated cabbage and potato to the soup pot and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Add the mashed garlic (or press it right into the pot) and adjust the seasoning with lemon, sugar, salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, with generous dollops of sour cream and scatterings of dill.