Moldovan Borscht (Chicken and Vegetable Soup)

I am quickly reminded when I say things like, “I learned how to make this soup from a Moldovan woman while I was visiting my father in Kabul, Afghanistan,” what an interesting life I’ve had—privileged, not in a monetary sense, but full of diversity, culture, and once in a lifetime experiences (some good and some bad). My goal is to write more about those experiences, starting with this recipe.

So, as I’ve just illuminated, I learned this recipe from a Moldovan woman in Kabul, Afghanistan several years ago. She made this soup while I peeked over her shoulder and took mental notes. Hers was a bit more rustic than mine (If you buy a chicken from a local market in Kabul, it will have its feet still attached, and if you grew up in a small village in Moldova, those feet will go into your soup pot). Regardless of my lack of chicken feet, I feel I really nailed the flavors and recreated the soup I remember eating. The dill and beets are key and my favorite part of this soup. There is no butter in the recipe, but the combination of rich vegetables and the irreplaceable flavor you get from cooking the chicken skin-on and bone-in both result in such a satisfying, buttery depth of flavor in the finished soup. IMG_8973I love any recipe that starts with a whole chicken; something about the process of breaking down a whole chicken makes me feel so capable, like I can do anything. Silly, I’m sure, but you should try it sometime. If jointing a whole chicken intimidates you, feel free to buy one already jointed, or ask your friendly butcher to do it for you.

IMG_8964

In case you’re confused, this is not the widely-known bright pink, creamy borscht. Moldovan borscht is commonly a brothier soup, with variations on the meats and sometimes the vegetables. Clearly, I am not Moldovan, but in defense of my credibility, I did learn this recipe from a woman born and raised in Moldova, and hers was a brothy, hearty chicken soup full of root vegetables and packed with flavor like this one. I’ve also done quite a bit of research into Moldovan Borscht and her version and mine are pretty much spot-on. This is rustic, peasant food—restorative and good for you on every level. The wine is my touch. I don’t think she added any, but the French in me has a hard time not adding wine to soups and stews. It is entirely optional, but it adds a nice acidity.

Regardless of its origins and history, it is delicious, healthy, and comforting—hearty enough for a cold winter night, but light enough for warmer months, too. It’ll cure what ails ya.

PS: The leftovers are fantastic and taste even better a day or two later.

Moldovan Borscht

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 3hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into parts (breast, thighs, legs, wings)
  • 1 medium head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 2 large beets, peeled and cubed (or 4 small beets)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced or grated
  • 4 waxy potatoes, such as red bliss or yukon gold, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tomatoes, diced or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill (feel free to use fresh if you have it)
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons veg oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups water

To prepare:

Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot, cast iron if you have it. Salt and pepper chicken and place skin side down in a single layer. Allow skin to get very crispy and brown; don’t rush this step. Once all chicken has been browned, remove to a dish and pour any excess fat from the pot. Add chicken back to pot along with onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, beets, dill, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until chicken is completely cooked through. Note: You won’t get any meat from the wings, but it is important to simmer them as they are packed with flavor and will result in a richer broth.

Remove chicken to a clean dish and set aside to cool slightly. Add cabbage and potatoes to pot and continue simmering for one more hour until tender. Taste broth at this point and add more salt and pepper to taste.

When chicken is cool enough to touch, remove and discard skin, and pull meat from bones in large pieces. Discard bones and wings. I prefer to leave the chicken in larger chunks, but shred or chop as you prefer.

Once vegetables are tender, skim any excess fat from broth and add shredded chicken back to pot. Heat through and serve with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley and dill and crusty bread with butter.

Let’s connect!:

Twitter

Instagram

BlogLovin’

Corn and Potato Chowder

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I am not a vegetarian. I love meat. But I also love moderation. I am perfectly happy going meat-free a couple times a week, and I’ve made it a normal part of my family’s routine. Going meat-free isn’t just good for our health, it’s good for our budgets and our planet.

I started seeing “meatless Monday” popping up on various social media sites and I think I read about it in a few magazines, but I had no idea what a big deal it really is; it’s an actual movement. “Meatless Monday began in 2003, launched in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In May, 2009, Ghent, Belgium, became the first non-U.S. city to go meatless. Shortly thereafter, Paul McCartney introduced the U.K. to Meat-Free Mondays.” Check out the website for more info, and make it a part of your weekly routine if you haven’t already.

This soup is a great way to start. I modeled it after my grandma’s recipe, (She actually makes tuna chowder, which I love, and this is really that recipe minus the tuna). She usually makes it with evaporated milk, and you can absolutely substitute the half and half for evaporated milk–it is so old-fashioned; I love it. I just always have half and half for my coffee, so I throw it into recipes.

It sounds funny, but the “secret” ingredient really is the celery. Celery seems so insignificant, but it makes all the difference in chowders. My French ancestors were really on to something with their mirepoix, and I’m happy to carry on the tradition. This is a great base for any kind of chowder. Try tuna, clam, chicken… and of course, feel free to start the recipe by crisping some bacon as long as it’s not meatless Monday.

Finally, I am a big believer in dunking things in soup, so I serve it with something toasty, and usually cheesy… I can’t help myself.

Here’s how I made the soup, and the cheesy dunkers:

IMG_3372

Corn and Potato Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 2 cups half and half or evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (I used 5 medium sized potatoes)–peeled and diced
  • 3 cups corn kernels (I used frozen, but in the summer time you must use fresh corn–so good!)
  • 1 medium yellow onion–chopped
  • 1 carrot–peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery–diced
  • 1 garlic clove–peeled and gently crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Chives or parsley to garnish (optional)

To Prepare:

In a large pot melt the butter, and add diced onions, carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaf with a big pinch of salt–about a teaspoon, a few grinds of black pepper, and a teensy pinch of cayenne, if using. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent.

Add flour and stir to combine, cook for about a minute.

Add wine and stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and add potatoes. Cook for about twenty minutes until potatoes are just tender. Add corn and half and half, bring back to a very gentle simmer until heated through. Don’t boil! Taste and adjust seasoning. The salt you add will depend on your stock, so it is very hard for me to give an exact measurement. Just add what tastes good!

Garnish with chives or parsley and enjoy!

*One of the benefits of evaporated milk is that it can withstand boiling, so if you use it you don’t have to be quite as concerned about curdling as if you use half and half.

If you want to serve it with a dipper, here’s how I made my most recent version:

IMG_3362

Parmesan Toasts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 loaf of italian or french bread
  • 1/2 stick soft butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

To prepare:

Smear bread evenly with butter, sprinkle evenly with cheese, place under broiler and watch carefully until the cheese gets brown. Don’t walk away! This happens fast! Slice and serve alongside the soup!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I’m back on my mushroom kick again… It’s not the first time, and I assure you it won’t be the last. I just love them, as I’m sure you remember from my Chicken Marsala Pasta post. Of all things mushroom, this soup has to be my favorite. Throughout my childhood and into my teenage years, I requested it often from my dad and grandma.
Obviously, I had to start making it for myself, and since there was never really a recipe, I came up with my own. I get excited when I see the varieties of mushrooms that are available at most grocery stores (food nerd alert!), and this soup can be made with any combination of them. Whatever you choose will be perfect, so get creative. It is rich, creamy, and comforting, but not overly thick as some “cream of” soups can be. Also, some mushroom soup recipes are ridiculously skimpy with their mushroom proportions, and the end result is really disappointing. So, while my amount might seem excessive, I promise it’s worth it. This is serious mushroom soup; I’m not messin’ around.

I still love topping it with my childhood favorite of crumbled saltines or oyster crackers. For something more substantial and dinner time appropriate, I like to serve it with grilled cheeses (for dunking of course!) made with either Fontina or Gruyère cheese (these two cheeses pair really nicely with mushrooms and thyme). No matter what you serve it with, you’ll be happy. It’s the perfect meal on a chilly fall day or night, kind of like a big hug for your tummy. Yum, yum, yum….

IMG_3024

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 48 ounces of mushrooms; any variety and combination, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced (Today I used 16 oz button, 16 oz cremini (baby bella), 8 oz oyster, and 8 oz shiitake)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme (remove leaves from 4 sprigs and finely chop. Reserve the other 4 sprigs for your stock)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup marsala or dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper

To Prepare:

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add mushroom stems. Cook for a few minutes until stems begin to brown. Add stock, 1 cup of water, and 4 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and let simmer while you prepare the mushrooms.

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add onion and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until onion softens and begins to brown. Add sliced mushrooms, garlic, chopped thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. (At this point you might think I’m crazy, but just trust me! The mushrooms cook down quite a lot during the next few steps.) Stir, and cover with a tightly fitting lid for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir again, replace lid and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point your mushrooms will be very soft and have quite a bit of liquid. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, again,  until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the final tablespoon of butter, once melted add flour and stir for a minute or so until you can’t see the white of the flour anymore and the mushroom mixture becomes thick and pasty.

IMG_3049

Strain the mushroom/chicken stock  directly into the soup pot containing the mushrooms, and cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally.

IMG_3032

After 15 minutes you will have a thick, almost gravy-like consistency. Add cream and half and half. Stir to combine and heat through, but make sure not to boil. Taste for salt and pepper, adjusting as needed.

Serve in big bowls with crackers, bread, or grilled cheese on the side.

IMG_3044

Enjoy!