I'm not sure how this version of a not-particularly-funny catchphrase by a singularly unfunny comedian made it into my family's repertoire of Stuff That Always Cracks Us Up, but I'm glad it's here. (In Soviet Russia, system fights YOU! In Soviet Russia, taxes pay YOU! Oh, wait… what?)
Anyway, this is probably a soup that's best to eat stateside, just to avoid any unfortunate devouring accidents. The vegetable saute is just gorgeous to look at–all Eastery pinks and greens–and the finished broth is a vivid magenta color that looks especially vivid when your child has just spilled a good cup and a half of it all over your white tile kitchen floor. (Yeaaaahhh.)
The original recipe for this was meatless, but I had forgotten it was meatless and bought a pound of "tip steak" that I didn't have any other plans for, so into the soup it went. Dee-licious.
If you're going veggie for this one, be sure and use a nice strong dark flavorful broth, perhaps a Rich Mushroom Broth such as this one from Mollie Katzen. If you're being carnivorous about it, you should be just fine with a decent canned beef broth or Beef Better-than-Bouillon, which is what I used here.
The sour cream on top is, as Jim's Ukrainian co-worker reminded him roughly eight million times (no, this is not her recipe), not optional. The dill isn't either, I don't think.
And if the only borscht you've ever had is with those horrid slimy beets from a can, I urge you to give this soup a try. It's a whole 'nother sort of animal (or vegetable, really).
Serves eight or thereabouts
5 Tbsp butter, divided
1 pound cheapish beef, but not as cheap as a chuck roast–it's not going to simmer for a super-long time–cut in 3/4" cubes (optional)
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced small (about 1/3 to 1/2")
4 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed well and diced small
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced small
3 or 4 medium-sized beets, trimmed, peeled and diced small
5 cups beef or veggie/mushroom broth
1/4 cup (or a little more!) red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream–about 1 to 2 Tbsp per serving
Fresh dill, chopped–about 1 to 2 tsp per serving
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the beef in a single layer (or as close as possible) and cook without stirring until bottoms of meat cubes are well-browned; stir briefly and continue cooking until browned all over, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In a soup pot. melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add diced vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are well softened, about 10 or 12 minutes.
Add beef and broth to pot. Bring just to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender and beef is cooked through, about another 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper as warranted.
Serve very hot, with a generous blop of sour cream atop each bowl and a pretty little sprinkling of bright-green dill over the top of the sour cream.