This was my favorite soup growing up. It was very brothy and meaty, despite the fact that it was often made with vegetable stock. Porcini mushrooms, prized in Russian cooking for their immense flavor, take center stage here.
I’ve taken my family recipe and swapped out some onions for shallots’ more mellow taste. I added some thyme to highlight the mushroom flavor even further and, finally, to give this already complex-tasting soup even more depth, I cooked some sherry into the mushrooms, letting the alcohol evaporate before adding other soup ingredients. It was my best version yet, one that I will share with my family and friends and be making for years to come. After some tweaks, my favorite soup is even better than before.
Continue Reading Porcini Barley Soup With Sherry
Not to start another competition of sorts (the Cold War is not that far behind us), but Russian oladyi (aka pancakes) get me far more excited than their American cousins. Somehow, mysteriously, they manage to feel lighter, and their diminutive size, topped with briny salmon roe and sour cream, or jam and sour cream, makes them so much more fun to eat. It doesn’t hurt that they look all festive and decorated — just what the season ordered.
Continue Reading Russian Quick Buttermilk Oladyi (Buttermilk Pancakes)
Mushrooms and cream go way back in Russian cooking. In my family, we often cooked chanterelles (which were dirt cheap in Russia, can you believe it?) with onions, herbs and sour cream to mix with pasta for a deliriously glorious dish.
Here in America, chanterelles are a bit too pricey for most of us and aren’t the easiest mushroom to locate. But cremini mushrooms are widely available in most supermarkets, so I decided to try my hand at substituting those instead. With some white wine and a dash of heavy cream blended with sour cream (it’s Russian, so of course there’s sour cream), my mushrooms turned out to be quite heavenly. I stood in my kitchen, licking my spoon and contemplating the mushrooms’ future fate. With so many holiday parties around the corner, they would make an excellent topping for a cracker or, better yet, some buttered, toasted pieces of brioche.
Continue Reading Creamy Mushrooms on Toast
When it comes time for Russian soirees, there’s no shortage of little bites, known in Russian as zakuski, that precede the main event. Personally, I’ve always been of the zakuski persuasion myself, enjoying the generous spread and often skipping the main course all together.
The word zakuski comes from the word zakusit, meaning “to have a snack”, but really it’s more of a vodka chaser than anything, which would explain why the assortment of various zakuski always includes pickles, herring, tiny meat pies, diminutive bread slices with bites of caviar or salami, and potent salads. The idea is to awaken your palate, to make you hungry for the meal to come. But for me, it’s always meant that my favorite snacks were together in one place.
One of my favorite zakuski family members is this intensely garlicky beet salad that’s ubiquitous at any family gathering. Russian delis also sell them by the quart, making it almost pointless to spend time making your own. But as I’ve tried to use as much organic produce as possible, it’s worth that extra effort.
Continue Reading Beet Salad with Walnuts, Dates, and Plenty of Garlic
I’m kicking off my Cooking Channel blog series with quite possibly the most everyday cake in Russian culinary repertoire; every, and I mean every, Russian household makes this cake. The famed, quotidian Sharlotka is nothing more than a bit of flour bound together by eggs, sugar and a dash of leavening with some apples. Every time someone in Russia would drop in unexpectedly, my mother would disappear in the kitchen for a few minutes and, an hour later, we had a gorgeous apple cake waiting for us all to enjoy. Judging by how busy everyone is these days and how the holiday season only exacerbates our time deficit, this is a good cake to have in your arsenal of dishes.
Continue Reading Spiced Sharlotka, Or Everyday Apple Cake