Kachka is having a bit of a moment in Portland. It’s a sweet little Russian restaurant with a chef who’s elevating what I used to consider bland, heavy food. Truth be told, Russian food can be heavy, but to me it’s perfect for the rainy, chilly days we’ve been having for the last few months in the Pacific Northwest.
I first read about Kachka last year because it snagged the 19th spot on GQ magazine’s list of the 25 outstanding restaurants of 2015. The restaurant itself is darling and the food is creative and elegant yet homey and comforting. And of course, they serve a lot of vodka. Their horseradish infused vodka is now being bottled and sold at the restaurant and in Oregon liquor stores, with plans to eventually distribute the vodka nationally.
I ran across Kachka’s short rib borscht recipe a few months ago, and I can’t stop making it. Spring is here, but the rain and cold weather persist, making this hearty, flavorful stew the perfect Pacific NW ‘spring’ dish.
My kitchen notes
The name of this dish is borscht, which is an Eastern European beet-based soup. Kachka’s version is what I would consider more of a stew rather than a traditional borscht.
The sour cream or crème fraîche dollop on each serving is a must. Don’t skip it!
Short Rib Borscht – from Kachka, Portland, Ore
3 tablespoons canola oil, plus up to 3 tablespoons more as needed
3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 large red beets, scrubbed well
2 quarts low-sodium beef stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes and covered in cold water (to prevent oxidation)
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped dill
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and add to the oil, cooking until browned on all sides, 12 to 14 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and transfer the short ribs to a large plate; set aside. Discard all but ¼ cup of the rendered fat from the pot. If the fat doesn’t yield ¼ cup, supplement with canola oil.
3. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until golden and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer the onions to a medium bowl and set aside.
4. Place the beets in the pot and add the beef stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium, then cook at a simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, until the beets are halfway cooked. With tongs, carefully remove the beets and place in a separate medium bowl; set aside.
5. Add the browned short ribs to the broth, along with the reserved onions and diced potatoes, partially cover and cook at a high simmer until the short ribs are very tender, about 3 hours.
6. While the short ribs are cooking, use a paring knife to peel the beets, discarding the skin, and coarsely grate with a box grater. Grate carrot with a box grater.
7. When the short ribs are ready (about 3 hours), remove them from the pot, along with any loose bones, and return to the large plate. Add the grated beets and carrots to the pot and simmer until soft, 30 minutes.
8. While the beets and carrots are cooking, pick the meat from the bones and dice, discarding the bones and connective tissue. Add to the pot and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
9. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with dill and a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.