You probably want me to write about cookies and such, it being the holiday season. And trust me, I would much rather tell you about cookies, and I will. This month will be very much about cookies. I can’t even wait to begin, but first, I have to just share this recipe for Russian cabbage soup with you because even though this is the official cookie season (aka Christmas), man (or woman) cannot live by cookies alone. It’s cold outside and I bet you would just love something that will warm you up. Why not cabbage soup?
I know that soup isn’t considered hip. Especially cabbage soup, which has Eastern Europe stamped all over it. But I love soup so unabashedly, that I’m not ashamed to admit that I practically live off it in the winter. And yes, in case you were wondering, I get teased a lot for my love of soup because it has got to be one of the most old-people meals around. I might as well puree my vegetables while I’m at it and take my dinner at five o’clock in the evening. Strained peas, anyone?
Look, for all the horrible stereotypes about Eastern Europe and cabbage, this is one hell of a winter food. If this doesn’t defrost you and bring you back to life, I don’t know what will. It’s hearty, it’s intensely rich and it’s filling. This isn’t just one of the courses of a meal – it’s a meal in and of itself.
Now I know a few of you don’t eat meat or only eat chicken, and before you get discouraged and see beef in the recipes, know this – you can make this vegetarian or you can make it with chicken. Beef is more traditional, however, what I think is key to this soup in its flavoring is the use of sauerkraut as well as cabbage. I added tomatoes to mine because as long as I remember that’s how my mom made this soup and the woman is famous for her soup-making skills. So, authentic or not – this is from the family files!
I make a lot of this soup and then freeze it in batches, so that when it’s truly dead cold outside, I have it on hand. A bowl of hot soup filled with beef, cabbage and a nourishing broth, brings me back to life and makes for a delicious supper.
Russian Cabbage Soup
1 teaspoon sunflower or olive oil
1 pound bone-in stew meat (I use beef, but traditionalists will insist on pork)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups shredded cabbage
4 cups beef stock
12 ounces sauerkraut
1 (12-ounce) jar chopped stewed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large stockpot, heat the oil and when ready, sear the meat until nicely browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Lower the heat to low and saute the garlic for 1 minute and then add the cabbage. Cook the cabbage, stirring frequently, until slightly wilted.
Add the stock along with 4 cups water the remaining ingredients up to potatoes and the seasonings. Bring the soup to a boil, remove any scum that rises to the top, decrease the heat to love, and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste, and simmer the soup for another 1 hour, or until it is slightly reduced and has a deep, brothy flavor. Add the potatoes and the black pepper and cook for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.