Taste of Russia

Russian cuisine is a little more eclectic than one might think.  The foods are heavily influenced by connections to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  They have made it work and while they may have been influenced by others, Russian cuisine is a flavor all its own. 

Much like the French, Russian foods are heavy on local flavors and often influenced by local conditions as well.  Fish, pork and poultry are common ingredients. Russians love caviar, mushrooms, berries, and honey as well. Crops of rye, wheat, barley and millet provided the ingredients for a plethora of breads, pancakes, pies, cereals, and of course the beer and vodka they are famous for.  Foods also centered heavily on seasonal or storable ingredients well into the 20th century.

Soups are a heavy component of Russian diet, so much so they actually have 7 categories to define them.  Chilled soups are for hot summer days.  Light soup/stews are water based with vegetables. Noodle soups often include meat, mushrooms or milk. There is a category exclusively for cabbage. Thick soups are meat broth with a sour base. Fish soup is another group.  And finally, there is grain based with vegetable. 

Porridge is one of the most important dishes in traditional Russian cuisine. Variety of cereals is based on a variety of local crops. The most popular of which are buckwheat, millet, semolina, oats, barley and rice.  Salad is somewhat popular, but I’m not talking leafy greens. Their favorite is ‘dressed herring’ which is more of a layered gelatinized salad and a version of potato salad. Meat dishes can be categorized as well—boiled meat in soup, offal dishes such as tripe or liver, whole fowl and jellied. 

Russian foods tend to be hearty, gotta get through the harsh winter, and easy to prepare. That made this week easy.  I did have to make a trip to the liquor store though!  Make your grocery list and meet me for deliciously easy Russian dishes.

Beef Stroganoff

2lb top sirloin steak, thinly sliced into strips

4 Tbsps. butter, divided

½ medium onion finely chopped

½lb brown mushrooms thickly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour

1 cup beef broth

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup sour cream

1 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp. green onion to garnish, if desired

12oz egg noodles or other pasta-I had no egg noodles so I ended up using rotini for the photo

Place large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and once very hot, add thinly sliced beef strips in single layer, cooking 1 minute per side without stirring. Cook until just browned. Sear beef in 4 batches so you don't overcrowd pan. Remove beef to plate and cover to keep warm. Add 2 tablespoons butter, chopped onion and sliced mushrooms. Sautee 6-8 minutes or until onions and mushrooms are soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons flour and sauté another minute stirring constantly. Pour in 1 cup beef broth, scraping any bits from bottom of pan then add whipping cream and simmer another 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Stir a few tablespoons of the sauce into sour cream to temper it so sour cream doesn’t curdle then add it to pan while stirring constantly. Stir in Worcestershire, mustard, and season with salt and pepper to taste and continue simmering until sauce is creamy. Add beef with any accumulated juices back to pan and bring just to a simmer or until beef is heated through.

Recipe adapted from natashaskitchen.com

 

Hot Honey Tea (Sbiten)

¾ cup honey

1 Tbsp. whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp ground ginger

16oz blackberry jam

10 1/4 cups water (or red wine)

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

In large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Slowly bring mixture to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until honey and jam completely dissolve. Remove from heat.  Let tea come to room temperature. Strain liquid through cheesecloth, pressing on solids, and transfer to an airtight container or bottle—a 750 ml bottle will accommodate this amount of sbiten. Refrigerate and reheat when serving.  I am going to admit though.  I reheated once strained and we drank most of it in one night.  This was really good on a cold night!

Recipe adapted from spruceeats.com

 

Meatball Soup

1 Tbsp. butter

½ large onion, finely diced

1 bag carrot coins

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 peppercorns 

2 bay leaves

10 cups water

3 medium potatoes, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste 

cup long grain rice

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, or other dry herb mix

Meatballs

1lb ground chicken 

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, slightly beaten

½ onion, grated on finest setting of grater, to form a pulp

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder 

Melt butter in large stock pot and add onion, carrots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add peppercorns, bay leaf, potatoes and water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper as desired, reduce heat to simmer. Cook 10 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  While waiting, pour milk over breadcrumbs in large bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes, until bread has been absorbed by milk and is soft. Add rest of ingredients for meatballs and mix until well combined. Using moistened hands, form mixture into approximately 1 tablespoon meatballs and drop into simmering soup. Add rice and seasoning to soup. Allow to cook until rice and meatballs have completely cooked through, 10-15 minutes. 

Recipe adapted from olgsflavorfactory.com

 

Strawberries Romanoff

¼ cup strawberry liqueur

¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur 

2 Tbsps. cognac

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsps. brown sugar

2 quarts fresh strawberries, rinsed

3 pints French vanilla ice cream

1 cup whipped topping

Garnish: mint sprigs

In large bowl, combine strawberry and orange liqueurs, cognac, lemon juice and brown sugar.  Reserve 8 whole strawberries for garnish if desired. Hull and slice remaining strawberries. Marinate slices in liqueur mixture at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  In large bowl, soften 2 pints of vanilla ice cream and carefully fold in whipped topping. Carefully fold in marinated strawberries, leaving liquid behind. (If desired, you can drizzle this on top of finished dessert or drink it.)  Place small scoop of remaining vanilla ice cream in bottom of 8 large stemmed glasses. Fill glasses with strawberry ice cream mixture. Garnish with extra whipped topping, one whole strawberry and a mint sprig if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: Mixing strawberries with the ice cream/whipped topping mixture did not make for a pretty presentation.  It tasted wonderful though.  If you want the presentation, it would be better to layer the strawberries and ice cream mixture separately.

Recipe adapted from thespruceeats.com.