I Start Dreaming About This Short Rib Borscht as Soon as the Weather Gets Cold

updated Jan 4, 2021
hanukkah
Short Rib Borscht

Boneless short ribs braised in beets, cabbage, and fennel create this deeply savory and comforting classic stew.

Prep20 minutes

Cook3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes

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bowl of short rib borscht sits on a table linen garnished with sour cream
Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

Remember the time not too long ago when you and your friends could gather inside a restaurant and share a meal together? You likely remember what your last meal in “the before times” was. Mine was brunch with my daughters and friend Nikita at Hart’s in Brooklyn, NY. We ordered and shared plates together, knowing it might be the last time we would do that for a while. Turns out we were right, and nine months later we’re still staying home.

It’s totally unsurprising to me that a meal at Hart’s was my “last supper” in the before times. I’ve been a regular pretty much since they opened — you’ll find me there at brunch and/or dinner at least once a month. The food is always delicious, the service is great, and the wine and spirits list is expertly selected. It’s just a warm place to bring your mom or the date you’re trying to impress, or break bread with your BFF. These little neighborhood hubs — places where you’ll always find a smile, and where you run into other friends and hug them — are the backbones of communities that make eating out so special.

A few years back, Hart’s premiered a Hanukkah menu. December in New York is frigid, and on these nights Harts’ warm atmosphere glows even brighter for the Festival of Lights. For a couple of weeks they’d open on Mondays (typically their day off), light candles, and serve up a special menu consisting of latkes, caviar, matzo ball soup, chicken liver mousse, and borscht. Last year, Nick (one of the owners) passed me a shot of aquavit. There’s always such a joyous and festive vibe in the air. 

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

The first year we went, Nikita and I sat at the candlelit bar and shared every single dish, each one perfect in their own way. But the one dish that stole my heart was chef Katie Jackson’s beef short rib borscht. Every year come November, when the temperature drops, I eagerly anticipate eating it again.

Katie’s borscht is braised until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, and has big beefy flavor along with earthiness from the beets and tang from the cabbage. And then there’s this sweetness — a sweetness that faintly dances across your palate, teasing it. Earth candy, I call it. The earth candy is what keeps me coming back for more as I try to attain that flavor again and again until every last drop is consumed. It is a big, hearty, warm hug on a wintery evening.

When November came around again, images of Katie’s borscht began to swirl in my head. But this year there won’t be a Hanukkah dinner; there will be no latkes and caviar, there won’t be chicken liver mousse, and there won’t be Katie’s borscht. So I reached out to Katie and she graciously shared her recipe with me and for you all to enjoy as well. Make it for Hanukkah or Christmas, make it all for yourself (and freeze some for later), or make some to share. It is the warm embrace you need in this upside-down total hellscape of a year.

And — if you live in Brooklyn — I encourage you to visit Hart’s. Since quarantine, they’ve transitioned into a specialty grocery store. And it is special. They sell their (famous to me) beans, whitefish salad, seasonal produce, She Wolf Bakery bread, an incredible wine and spirits selection, and so much more.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Short Rib Borscht

Boneless short ribs braised in beets, cabbage, and fennel create this deeply savory and comforting classic stew.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    large yellow onion (about 8 ounces)

  • 2

    stalks celery

  • 1

    large fennel bulb

  • 3

    cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon

    fennel seeds

  • 1/2

    small head red cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • 1 pound

    loose red beets

  • 3 pounds

    bone-in English-cut beef short ribs

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup

    red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 cups

    beef stock or broth (preferably homemade but store bought is fine)

  • 2

    dried or fresh bay leaves

  • For serving: yogurt or sour cream, fresh dill, and freshly grated horseradish

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, placing them all in the same large bowl: Dice 1 large yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups), dice 3 celery stalks (about 1 1/2 cups), and 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 1/2 cups). Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves. Add 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

  2. Place 3 pounds beef short ribs on a baking sheet and season with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches, sear the short ribs until browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Return the short ribs to the baking sheet. Meanwhile, core and thinly slice 1/2 medium head red cabbage until you have about 3 cups. Peel and chop 1 pound beets.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pot. Add the onion mixture to the pot. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 12 minutes.

  4. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the beets, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir until the vegetables are coated in tomato paste.

  5. Return the short ribs and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add 6 cups beef stock and 2 bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cover and cook, stirring every 30 minutes and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, until the meat is fork tender, 2 /12 to 3 hours.

  6. Using tongs, transfer the short ribs to a plate. Taste and season the borscht with kosher salt as needed. If desired, skim the fat off the surface with a spoon. When cool enough to handle, shred or cut the meat into large chunks, discarding any bones, large chunks of fat, or gristle. Return the meat to the pot and stir to combine. Serve with yogurt or sour cream, fresh dill, and freshly grated horseradish.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: This soup can be made up to 1 day ahead to soak so the flavors can meld. Scrape up the fat that forms on the surface and reheat.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days or frozen up to 2 months.