Borscht comes in many guises. Even the spelling of this hearty Eastern European soup has variables (borshch is another possibility). The dish is common in Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine, writes Alan Davidson in “The Oxford Companion to Food.’’ He says that if you use a theory followed by botanists - that the origin of a species is the place that has the largest number of variations - you would credit the Ukrainians for coming up with borscht. This Russian version contains meat, marrow bones, beets, and cabbage. Beef chuck and the bones, along with tomatoes, beets, sugar, and lemon (to add a sweet-sour tang), create a rich broth. The pot simmers for several hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add cabbage wedges and potatoes. Serve the bowls with sour cream and snipped fresh dill.
3 pounds beef chuck roast
2 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones
4 quarts water
3 teaspoons kosher salt, and more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
8 medium red beets, peeled and halved if large
1 large onion, sliced
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small head cabbage, cut into eighths
5 medium Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, peeled
1 cup sour cream (for serving)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (for garnish)
1. In a stock pot, combine the beef, bones, water, and 3 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, and use a slotted spoon to skim the surface. Simmer for 45 minutes, skimming occasionally.
2. Add the pepper, tomato paste, beets, onion, tomatoes, sugar, garlic, and lemon juice. Return the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, set the cover on askew, and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender when tested with a fork. (Total simmering time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.)
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cabbage and potatoes. Add water to cover and a generous pinch of salt. Set aside.
4. During the last 30 minutes of simmering, transfer the cabbage to the pot. Return the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and add to the soup. Simmer 15 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender.
5. Remove the beef from the soup. Lift out and discard the bones.
6. Slice the meat into serving size pieces and return to the pot. Skim the fat from the surface of the soup.
7. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with sour cream and dill.