From my fractional polish heritage, I was so lucky to have been included in my sister in laws family Christmas Eve tradition.
Once horrified by the memories of beet soup with homogonized milk, that puce nightmare was no comparison to the hard work and detail which had been presented before us to gobble up.
The bright colour and warmth of this simple, smooth broth sets the perfect stage for the celebration ahead. Borscht is may be peasant food, but like it’s counterparts, it is pure comfort. Served as the first course during the Christmas Eve feast with miniature mushroom filled pierogi packages called uszka, this wonderful tradition becomes the delight of the Holiday table.
RED BORSCHT WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM PIEROGIES
4 Beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, roughly chopped
1 Carrot, roughly chopped
1 Stalk Celery, roughly chopped
2 Cups Shredded Red Cabbage
3 Sprigs Thyme
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper, to taste
9 Cups Water
3/4 Cup Reserved Mushroom Liquid, see below
Trim and scrub the beets, leaving at least 1″ of stem.
Loosely wrap them in foil and roast in a 400ºF oven for 1 hour, or until fork tender.
Once the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the stems and peel. Chop the beets into small cubes.
In a large stockpot, heat the oil and sweat the onion and garlic.
Add the chopped carrot,celery and beets.
Top with the water, thyme sprigs, salt and cabbage.
Bring the pot to a rolling simmer and cook until the carrots are soft; about 40 minutes.
Strain the soup through a sieve into a new stockpot.
Pour the reserved mushroom liquid through a cheesecloth and add along with the fresh pepper, sugar and lemon, adjusting salt and other seasonings if and where necessary.
Keep warm on a low heat until ready to serve.
PORCINI MUSHROOM PIEROGIES
1 Cup Dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 Cup Boiling Water, or enough to cover mushrooms
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Leek, white and light green parts
1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
1 teaspoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms to reconstitute. Let them sit for about 30 minutes.
Strain and reserve liquid.
Trim, rinse and finely chop the leeks.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.
Add the leeks and garlic, sautéing until soft.
Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the leeks along with the thyme, salt and pepper; sauté for 2 minutes more.
Remove from heat and add the parsley.
Cool mixture and make the dough.
2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Hot Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt
Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor.
With the motor running, add the oil and drizzle hot water through the feed tube just until the mixture comes together as a dough. (You may not end up using all of the water.)
Cut the dough in half, cover and let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
Roll out the first piece of dough about 1/8″ thick.
Cut 2″ rounds and either using a pierog/ravioli press or by hand, add a small amount of the mushroom filling to the center.
Dampen the edges, fold the dough in half and seal tightly.
You may either pinch the two opposite edges together to create the uszka’s “tiny ear” appearance, which also resembles tortellini or leave the edges flat.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
To cook, drop the pierogies into rapidly boiling water for about 3 -4 minutes, removing them once they float.
Add the pierogies to the borscht just before serving.