Kisliye schi* is one of the weirder Russian soups. First, it’s made with sauerkraut. Second…it’s made with sauerkraut. If you aren’t from Eastern Europe, when was the last time you’ve given any thought to sauerkraut soup? Me, I’ve given a lot of thought to sauerkraut soup lately. It’s a great winter meal in a bowl. It’s easy to make. It’s cheap—recession cheap!
And yet it’ll never be as popular as, say, borsch, the ruby red prom queen of Russian food. Schi involves cabbage in various guises. It’s kind of beige in color. It has a funny name that’s hard to pronounce in English (say shee). It’s… oh, come on, it’s made with sauerkraut! As I fruitlessly Googled schi recipes a few days ago, I thought this soup didn’t have a chance on the culinary scene.
Yet there’s hope on the horizon. It turns out that in November, New York Magazine ran a recipe for sauerkraut soup served at the reassuringly chic New York diner Veselka. Deb of powerhouse food blog Smitten Kitchen actually made and liked the soup. So when I found myself with leftover Thanksgiving sauerkraut and stock last week, I decided there was no better time to make a schi of my own. In the interest of full disclosure, this is the first time I’ve ever been inspired to cook it.
I’ve cobbled together recipes from New York mag, Anya von Bremzen’s Russian cookbook Please to the Table and my mom. Some of these recipes call for ingredients as varied as wild mushrooms and tomatoes, but I’ve kept my schi simple. Here’s the method:
First, you need a nice, rich stock with chunks of meat, preferably beef or pork. Chicken stock could suffice, if it’s a good one. I used my crock pot stock made with pork ribs (see recipe here).
When you’re ready to make schi, bring 6 cups of stock to a boil in a soup pot, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Dice the beef, pork or chicken into ½ -inch pieces.
Peel and dice a medium potato. Shred ¼ of a small cabbage (about 2 cups). In a skillet, heat up some butter or sunflower oil. Dice a small onion and a carrot, and sauté the aromatics until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the cabbage to the skillet and sauté 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the soup pot. Simmer 15 minutes; add the potatoes the pot and simmer 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the cabbage is tender.
Add 2 cups sauerkraut and a good splash of sauerkraut liquid to the soup pot. Add the diced meat. Stir; simmer 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper. Mince a large garlic clove, and add to the soup pot. Serve the soup with minced parsley or dill and huge dollops of sour cream. Rye bread is good on the side.
*Updated Dec. 7: Sassy Radish correctly notes that schi is made with fresh cabbage; kisliye schi (sour schi) is made with sauerkraut.