One of the first things I did when looking for Russian type recipes to make during the Olympics was check Eat Your Books to see if I had any non-russian cookbooks that might have Russian recipes. Not many came up. One that did was this soup from Americas Test Kitchens Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2. Not exactly authentic but the dish sounded appealing and the fact that it used a slow cooker meant more time for me to watch Olympic events.
If you take a look at the ingredients you'll notice there is no cabbage listed. The recipe calls for sauerkraut. I admit at first that using sauerkraut instead of some fresh cabbage sounded like something that wouldn't normally be done, but in reading some of the Russian cookbooks I bought, sauerkraut was used in the old days due to the fact that fresh vegetables weren't always available. Americas Test Kitchen said that they used sauerkraut as a way to get around prepping fresh cabbage.
And gnocchi? Well, it seems Russians do make their own versions of gnocchi, though the authors of the cookbook said they used the packaged version so they didn't have to make the gnocchi from scratch. Hardly authentic but I said what the heck, and I decided to give this recipe a try.
The soup came out decent. The meat, though very tender was a little dry (more on that in the notes). Mr. L asked for seconds, which is always a good sign. I liked the bit of tang that the last bit of sauerkraut gave the soup. There wasn't an overwhelming sauerkraut flavor so don't be afraid of that. The soup heated up really well the next day and became much more flavorful.
RUSSIAN BEEF AND CABBAGE SOUP
(Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2)
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 cups beef broth
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak tips, trimmed
Salt and Pepper
1 pound vacuum-packed gnocchi
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1. Microwave onions, garlic, tomato paste, oil, and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth and 1 cup sauerkraut. Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 10 hours on low or 6 to 7 hours on high.
2. Transfer beef to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces. Using large spoon, skim excess fat from surface of soup.
3. Stir in gnocchi, cover, and cook on high until tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in shredded beef and remaining 1 cup sauerkraut and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sour cream. Serves 6 to 8
Notes from the recipe:
*Use a 5 1/2 to 7 quarts slow cooker
*Be sure to rinse the sauerkraut well or the soup will become too sour
*Do not use refrigerated or frozen gnocchi, it will turn gummy in the soup
NOTE: I asked my butcher about "steak tips" and he said use either a sirloin steak (which I did) or to use stew meat. I chose the sirloin because the butcher said it would be more tender (and of course it did cost more). The meat was a bit dry for my taste. It was very tender so maybe less time in the crockpot next time? Or maybe I figure out what steak tips are?
NOTE: Part of the recipe explains about smart shopping for sauerkraut. I agree that the canned versions are horrible. There are some great versions in jars or vacuum-sealed bags (check the refrigerator section). Or if you're lucky, you might be able to find a farmers market like the one locally here where the guy sells some awesome homemade sauerkraut.
NOTE: As per instructed I used vacuum packaged gnocchi. There were several brands available at my local supermarket and I know you can buy them at Cost Plus World Market. I was surprised how well they held up and how tasty they became in the soup.
NOTE: I cooked this for a bit over 9 hours and then the addition 30 minutes.
NOTE: The sour cream actually added a bit of richness which I really liked so I'd definitely add that to the finished dish.
All in all, not a bad soup. Though the taste didn't blow me away, I'd make it again if I had someone who liked sauerkraut. Can't say it's even close to any real Russian dishes, but it was nice to serve during the Olympics while watching all those folks in the snow (of course it was pretty warm there though LOL).