Stick To Your Ribs…Short Ribs, That Is
I have so many happy memories of this cabbage borscht with beef short ribs – it’s one that my Dad has been making for years, probably back when the parents had a subscription to Bon Apetit and Gourmet mag. Every edition had sweet 70s fashions and folks curled up on shag rugs dipping wisps of beef tenderloin into the smoking oil fondue pots. You can’t really find this soup recipe by its original name (which I use here), but recently my Dad did a search and found out that it now goes under the guise of Czech Flanken and Cabbage Soup. Both titles are accurate, but the recipe below is truly the best I’ve come across. The soup is hearty and rich, but cut with a zip of lemon and sweet red wine.
We modify it a bit from the original recipe and double the meat (of course, of course). I also prefer the larger cuts of beef short ribs to the skinny flanken cuts (like bulgogi for korean bbq) for this. When I order the meat from the butcher, they’ll even do it as a big boneless slice, which is nice. No digging for bones when it’s all done. You could, however, use the flanken if that’s all that’s there, or some other cut of beef with a good fat content and excellent marbling. The slow cooking in the stock makes the beef almost velvety, so the fat is essential for giving the soup something to work with. Show me whatchu workin’ with! Haha, ok, soup time.
5-6 lbs of beef short ribs
12 c. of beef stock (need not be homemade)
2 16oz. cans of whole tomatoes with liquid
2 onions, very thinly sliced
4 cl. of garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
5 lbs. of green cabbage, shredded
1/2 lb. of sauerkraut with liquid
1/2 c. of lemon juice
1/4 c. of sugar
salt and pepper
2 tbs. of corn starch
1/2 c. of red wine
In a large soup pot, add your short ribs, beef stock, tomatoes, onions, garlic and bay leaves. Bring the mix to a boil, making sure to skim off any foam as it rises to the top. Dump in your cabbage and sauerkraut and stir. Bring the heat down to medium and continue to simmer until your short ribs are super tender – about 2.5 hours.
Do a little culinary search and rescue mission and pull out as many short rib bones as you can scoop. Stir in lemon juice and sugar a tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition. Stop when the soup is slightly sweet and slightly tart. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, if you can wait a day to eat your soup, take it off the heat, let it cool and then chill overnight. The next morning, degrease the soup – super easy to do now that the fat is cold and easy to just peel off. Bring the soup back up to a boil.
If you want to eat right away, degrease carefully and then continue below.
With the soup hot, make a slurry by carefully mixing together the cornstarch and red wine until smooth. Pour into the boiling soup in a slow stream, allowing it to thicken slightly. Serve.
- I don’t know about you, but I HATE slicing cabbage. You can get pre-shredded cabbage in the produce section where they keep the bagged salad. Save yourself the time.
- This soup freezes incredibly well, so if it’s more than you can feed to people in one sitting, tuck the leftovers away in Chinese takeout containers (you know, the ones they use for soup) and save for a rainy day.
- Some folks serve this with a dollop of sour cream, but it’s good for me as is.
- For a vegetarian alternative, replace beef stock with vegetable broth, and add 1 stalk of celery and 2 diced carrots. Cook for an hour, and then add 1 c. of pearl barley. Cook until barley is tender, about 45 minutes.