I’m not typically one to toot my own horn but I generally am one confident gal when it comes to my role in the kitchen. I can chop at lighting fast speed. I season to taste, which I believe to be a fine art, and I use recipes as guidelines, not hard rules. Yes I have to say the kitchen is where I happen to feel my most confident.
That all came to a screeching halt yesterday. Enter nervous, unconfident, full of questions, C.
Father’s day was suddenly upon us this year. Not wanting to simply pass by the day that was meant to honor the head of our family my darling sister and I came up with the brilliant plan of making him a russian feast. (My dad is russian by the way, this isn’t totally random). Once decided, the frantic text trail began from there as my sister ran around in the city and I waited for B to wake up from his am nap:
A: I was thinking it would be cute to do like a nice russian meal – borscht, pierogis, sausage…what do you think?
C: That’s awesome. We can bring it by during the day for them to eat when they can.
A: Perfect! I was hoping you’d say that.
A: Found a hole in the wall deli in ukrainian ullage and bought like 5 tons of pierogis.
C: Amazing!!! Sausage update?
C: What else do we need, heading out with B soon. Are we doing this homemade borscht?
A: Well, I wanted to save the sausage for this yuppy deli by us that’s won all sorts of awards, but I get there and they don’t have anything polish. So I got 2 that they guy said are most like kielbasa. Might want to get a couple more
C: Because we won’t have enough food, ha
A: The borscht does take a really long time…maybe you can get the beets going today?
C: Ok, let me look over the recipe now….
C: Ok, do you have the recipe? Ugh, I am so disorganized, I know mom gave it to me and of course I can’t find it and don’t want to bother her….
C: Never mind…!!! Found it. Woo hoo.
C: This is going to be a FEAST.
C: I love how you are essentially bringing a grocery store to mom and dads today.
A: I mean…I have cheese, bread, bacon wrapped dates, sausage, hummus, pierogis….
C: That’s just awesome.
At this point I was standing in Fresh Market looking at the stacks of dirty beets. Huh, I’ve never actually cooked a beet. Do I boil it or roast it? Peel it first or leave it be? I whipped out the recipe, a term I use lightly here. Oh my goodness it is pretty much a rambling of my mom’s and grandmother’s thoughts spilled onto a piece of paper. In regards to the beets, it says ‘cook them.’ Helpful. There were ingredients listed at the top and as I read my way through the directions new ingredients popped up here and there. Huh. I will be cooking with beef bones (comfortable) and ox tails (not comfortable). How long do I cook them? ‘Awhile.’ It called for a can of tomatoes…..well, diced? Whole? Crushed? 14 oz or 28 oz? I began to sweat.
B sensed my anxiety and wanted ‘up’ so I meandered my way through the market with my 24 pound bowling ball on my hip trying to decipher the code on that thin sheet of paper that was the key to taking father’s day to the next level.
Once I was confident I had all the necessary ingredients to get this going I made my way to the check out. A kind lady, who I have chatted with many times before, asked if I was making anything special for Father’s day. I replied ‘well, yes…borscht soup, but I am a little nervous about it.’
She smiled huge and said ‘oh you’ll be fine! Start with the beets – it’s just like cooking a potato.’
I breathed a sigh of relief. Potatoes! Well, I can handle those. I can do this!
And the recipe unfolded from there. I had to feel my way through most of it and questioned myself once or twice but I think, after all that, I pretty much nailed it. There was no other option. It was going to a pretty special guy.
And hey mom if that’s not the case, feel free to season away. Sugar and all.
- 1 qt beef stock
- 1 package beef short ribs
- 1 package oxtails
- salt & pepper
- bay leaf
- 4 to 5 larger sized beets
- onion, diced
- 1 28 ounce can tomatoes, diced
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- 3 carrots, grated
- smallish head of cabbage, roughly chopped
- 3 small red potatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- handful fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- Cover beef bones and oxtails with water. Add in bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, until meat is tender. Roughly 1 hour or so.
- Place beats in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for roughly an hour, until fork tender. Peel skin off and roughly chop.
- To the meat pot add onion, tomatoes, garlic salt, and carrots. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add in cooked beets, cabbage, and potatoes and simmer for another 15 minutes or so.
- Last in goes your lemon juice, dill, and sugar. Taste at this point! You will need to adjust the salt and pepper.