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From Russia With Love

Russia has some unexpectedly delicious foods ladies and gentlemen.  This week’s cooking class featured the expanse of Russia, with jokes and cringes here and there of the current country’s endeavors.  But the food was top notch.  Take a look at the menu:

 

Zakuska
Beet Borscht
Beef Stroganov
Braised Onions & Carrots a la Russe
Fruited Baba au Rhum

We started with the most time consuming of the bunch, per usual.  This week it was the dessert, the Baba!  Baba reminds me a bit of a bundt cake and a bit of a pound cake and a bit of a rum cake.  It’s exceptional and unique and worth the time.  The reason it takes some time is that it is a yeasted cake, unique to all of the other cakes I likened it to above.  You proof the yeast, then you add more flour and milk to it and let it rise for an hour.  Then you add the “batter” to it:  eggs, more flour, a bit of sugar, and a lot of butter.  You let this rise again for another hour.  After that you add raisins and currants that have been soaked in rum overnight to the dough.  You add this to a Savarin tin, which is like a bundt cake in shape but without the ridges, let rise to the top, then pop in the oven for only 15 minutes.  You let the cake cool before completely soaking the cake in a syrup of sugar, water and rum.  Before serving you spread an apricot glaze on top of the cake, add slivered roasted almonds to that and for serving we had sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream to top, just like a pound cake.  It was delicious in every bite.  I love any desserts with alcohol in them, I think I like those better than liquor itself.

After baking, before glazing or soaking.
After baking, before glazing or soaking.
Ready to serve.
Ready to serve.
Slice of heaven!
Slice of heaven!

We then made our borscht.  OMG, I like beets and I love borscht.  This borscht was not heavy in the least but it was hot and flavorful and soothing.  It was also extremely easy!  The only hang up to this dish is finely julienning the beets.  We used a mandoline slicer, which I have now, into fine slivers.  You then add these to straight water and also finely slice the beet greens (their tops) and add those to the water.  You bring that to a boil then add a touch of sugar, a touch of lemon juice, a touch of salt and green onions.  Then you just simmer for 30-40 minutes, and voila, BORSCHT!  Top with a dollop of Daisy and a few chives and I could eat/drink that up for days.  And best yet, it is bright purple.

BORSCHT!!
BORSCHT!!

We then arranged our “antipasto” spread, or in Russian terms, the Zakuska.  This is a bit more of a palate ruiner than the traditional Italian or Greek snacks we have had.  For this we had some amazingly dark Russian Black Rye bread sliced, along with butter, herring, olives, duck liver pate, and cornichons.  Plus a tiny little cordial of ice cold Stoli from the freezer.  So I tried a little bit of everything.  People love pate but for me it is too strong of a flavor.  I did manage it and a small piece of herring with the bread to mellow out the flavors.  The herring was better than expected, more like a tuna than I thought.  I love cornichons and vodka!

Our tasting spread.
Our tasting spread.
And to wash it down with...you will need this to wash it down!
And to wash it down with…you will need this to wash it down!

The last items we cooked were our main dishes, and these were fantastic.  I’m all about the stroganoff!  We used sirloin steak, which is the correct meat to use for stroganoff, and sliced it against the grain.  I learned that cutting it this way (also good for stirfrys) does not cause the muscles to tense up so much to make the meat tough.  We got a good sear on all of the meat in a combo of butter and oil and we cooked the mushrooms and onions to soften them up.  We then made the sauce in the same pan (after removing all of the goodies) with beef stock, a bit of flour and butter, and then after that thickens a bit we added our sour cream.  I appreciate her stressing the use of real sour cream and not the light stuff.  We didn’t even use that much but after a few turns of the pan we had a super creamy sauce.  We then added all of the goodies back into the pan to cook in the sauce.  We served this alongside buttered egg noodles and it was just heavenly.  Our side dish was super simple, cheap but surprisingly really delicious.  We first cooked onions in butter, then a tomato to cook down some of the juices.  Then we added finely julienneded carrots to the mix, a bit of water, salt cayenne.  After the carrots cooked for only 5 minutes we removed them, cooked down the sauce, poured the sauce on top, and finished with chopped green onions and cilantro.  So yummy!!!

Pot of stroganoff.
Pot of stroganoff.
Carrot salad photo came out awful.
Carrot salad photo came out awful.
My plate with noodles.
My plate with noodles.

I enjoyed every part of this meal.  More so in this meal than any others have I really felt like I was in Grandma’s kitchen cooking with her.  Not entirely sure why; maybe it was making something fairly similar to German cooking, maybe it was doing some baking and explaining the method of yeast, I don’t know but I really was happy.  Will be making some of these recipes very soon!

Chelsea

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