(Russian cabbage soup)
Rich, nourishing, ethereal — shchi (щи) is a soup that touches the Russian soul. At its most basic, shchi (pronounced sh-CHEE) is a simple vegetarian cabbage stew. More elaborate versions include slow-simmered beef brisket and a variety of root vegetables.
An old Russian saying goes: "Shchi da kasha — pishcha nasha." Translation: "Shchi and kasha — our staple foods." Shchi is always better served a day or two after it is made.
6 to 8 servings
For the Stock
- Beef bones -- 3 pounds
- Beef brisket -- 2 pounds
- Onions, chopped -- 2
- Carrot, chopped -- 1
- Celery -- 2 stalks
- Parsley -- 2 or 3 sprigs
- Salt -- 1 tablespoon
- Peppercorns -- 8 to 10
- Bay leaf -- 2 or 3
- Water -- 4 quarts
For the Soup
- Butter or oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Onions, thinly sliced -- 2
- Cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded -- 1 large head
- Potatoes, peeled and diced -- 1 pound
- Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped -- 2 cups
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Add all the stock ingredients to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer slowly for 3 or 4 hours. Skim and discard any scum that floats to the surface.
- Remove the brisket from the pot and set it aside to cool. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the bones and vegetables. When the brisket is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized chunks. Set the brisket and stock aside.
- Clean the pot and return it to the stovetop. Heat the oil over medium-high flame. Add the onions and saute for 3 or 4 minutes, or until they are wilted. Add the shredded cabbage and saute for another 4 or 5 minutes until it is also cooked down and wilted.
- Add the reserved brisket and stock back to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning to taste and serve in bowls, accompanied by slices of hearty rye bread. Garnish with a large dollop of sour cream and some chopped fresh dill.
- Shchi Kisliye (Sour cabbage soup): Substitute 1 pound of fresh, drained sauerkraut for the cabbage. Rinse the sauerkraut with cool water and squeeze dry before adding it to the pot. You can also try half fresh cabbage and half sauerkraut.
- Shchi Vegetarianskiye (Vegetarian cabbage soup): Use vegetable stock in place of the beef stock and eliminate the brisket.
- Other Additions: Saute some minced garlic or some sliced mushrooms along with the onions. Stir in a tablespoon or two or tomato paste when you add the stock. Add some peeled and diced celery root, parsley root, carrots, parsnips or turnips when you add the potatoes.