Hot beef borscht

Wintry days make me hungry for comfort foods, and nothing satisfies more than this hearty Eastern European-style soup. I use either leftover brisket or roast beef to make the borscht. If neither is in the refrigerator, I buy a chunk of rare roast beef at the deli counter.


Serves 6 to 8


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 ribs celery cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 fennel bulb stalks and bulb cut into 1/2-inch dice, feathery fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon ground pepper
3 beets peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (see Cook’s Note)
1/2 small green cabbage cut into 1/2-inch dice
7 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 pound cooked brisket or roast beef cut into 1/2-inch dice
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup sour cream


In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, celery, and fennel and sauté, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Cover and cook until the vegetables are softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, caraway seeds, and pepper. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beets, cabbage, and stock or broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer until the beets are tender, about 35 minutes.
When the beets are tender, add the cubed beef to the pot and heat through. Add salt to taste. Ladle into warmed soup bowls. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with the chopped fennel fronds.


I use disposable surgical gloves when working with beets to keep my fingers from being stained red. Look for them at a pharmacy or in a supermarket where bandages and first-aid supplies are sold.