In honor of semester's end at the College of Midwestia Prof. Hubs and I decided to throw a little party for the Russian students to celebrate all that they accomplished during the past few months...and mostly to bribe them into continuing their studies with the Russian program...
In my eagerness to prepare traditional Russian recipes I decided to (ambitiously) prepare not only a traditional borscht (beet soup,) but also pirozhki (little pies filled with a cabbage mixture,) Khatchapuri (the most delicious cheese bread known to humankind) and an apple cake... I was cooking for more than 10 hours, people (which is why I poached a borscht photo from some other website-I was too busy kneading fresh pirozhki dough to snap pics...) It was actually a lot of fun-though somewhat stressful (I needed Prof. Hubs to stage a Borscht intervention somewhere around 9pm on Thursday and he came to my rescue with more beets, etc.) and I haven't had such sore feet since my days working in the restaurant business. No wonder they require food service workers to wear those dansko clogs!
After all that cooking we finally got to enjoy the goodies-and they were wonderful. Even the actual Russians at the feast found them to be authentically delish (though, admittedly the whole wheat dough that I used for the cabbage pirozhki was not nearly as supple and light as the white dough I made for the cheese Khatchapuri...nor nearly as authentic.) I have included the Borscht recipe and the Khatchapuri recipe, because they were the most beloved (and I already shared the amazing Jewish apple cake recipe in a previous post.) Though the borscht has multiple parts it's worth the effort on a cold winter's day. And you can always do something else (like make Khatchapuri) while the various parts are cooking...
FUN WITH BORSCHT
based on several recipes, including on on SIMPLY RECIPES, one on EPICURIOUS and several featured on prominent Russian cooking websites
(note: this makes enough borscht to fill a large stockpot...or a lot of people.)
2lbs beef shortribs (the British cut, thick squares, on the bone, as opposed to the thin, long cuts)
1 onion, quartered
16 cups (4 containers) beef broth (low sodium)
8 carrots, peeled, chopped into 1/2 inch bites
5 med potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1/2 inch bites
6 cups white cabbage chopped into 1/2 inch square shreds
1 cup dill, chopped
In a large stockpot heat a bit of vegetable oil to med-hi. Add shortribs. Brown on all sides (total of about 8 minutes) then add onion. Then add one container (4 cups) broth. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover. Cook for 2.5 hours. After that time remove from heat. Transfer shortribs to plate. Trim of bone and fat, shred meat. Set aside shredded beef in fridge. Allow broth to cool (this takes at least 4 hours) and then skim fat from the top.
Boil beets in water for 25 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Allow to cool, then peel and chop into 1/2 inch bites.
Continue with all of the other vegetable chopping.
Bring skimmed back to stove. Add remaining stock and bring to a boil. Add all chopped vegetables (beets, carrots, potato.) Then lower heat to simmer soup, covered for at least an hour. Stir in meat.
Now you are FINALLY ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor-
Serve soup with a large dollop of sourcream, dill, and salt and pepper to taste.
KHATCHAPURI (Georgian cheese bread)
(note: I'm sure you could just use refrigerated pizza dough rolled very thin for this, but if you have the time, this dough is so silky and supple.)
(recipe by Gil Marks)
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water plus 2/3 cup warm water or milk
3 tsp sugar or honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter melted
1.5 tsp salt
about 3.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water. Stir in 1 tsp of the sugar and let stand until foamy. Stir in the remaining water, the remaining 2 tsp sugar, the eggs, butter, salt,and 2 cups of the flour. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a workable dough.
Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased large bowl, turning to coat. cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1.5 hours. Punch down and knead again before use or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
1 cup ricotta cheese
1.5 blocks of feta cheese, crumbled
half a bag shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Combine all cheeses and egg.
Preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough to 1/2'' to 3/4'' thick. Cut into rounds (my rounds were about 6'' in diameter.) Fill the rounds with a layer of cheese mixture, leaving room at the edges. Cover with another round and pinch edges closed. (for extra pretty brown-ness, brush little pies with a mix of 1 egg and 1 tbsp water before baking.) Place on a greased baking sheet and bake until lightly browned (in my oven, about 10 minutes.)
I warn you-this is the tastiest cheesy bread product you will EVER EAT:
ENJOY WITH CAUTION-HIGHLY ADDICTIVE