Borscht with Braised Duck
Brilliant red beet borscht, laden with cabbage and other vegetables, is the essence of Russian cuisine. The addition of succulent braised duck and baby vegetables makes this a sophisticated dish worthy of dinner. Serve with a crusty loaf of bread. Every part of this dish, with the exception of the Swiss chard, may be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Cover and refrigerate the borscht with the vegetables in it; cover and refrigerate all of the garnish vegetables and the duck meat separately.
- Braised Duck
- Duck Legs - 3
- Rich Duck Stock or Chicken Stock - 6 cups (see Basics)
- Bacon Fat - 2 tablespoons, or 2 tablespoons oil plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Onions - 1 cup, thinly sliced
- Carrots - 1, cut into 1/6-inch julienne
- Cabbage - 1/2 head, shredded
- Tomato Puree - 1 tablespoon
- Beets - 5, cut into 1/16-inch julienne
- Wine vinegar - 4 tablespoons
- Potato Starch - 2 tablespoons, or 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Yukon Gold Potatoes - 12 small, peeled
- Baby Turnips - 6, peeled
- Baby Golden Beets - 6, trimmed of all but 1 inch of the tops
- Baby Red Beets - 6, trimmed of all but 1 inch of the tops
- Swiss Chard - 24 leaves
- Sour Cream - 1/2 cup
- Fresh Dill - leaves from 1 bunch fresh dill, minced
To braise the duck legs: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the duck legs, skin-side down, and cook them, turning them frequently, for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. Remove the duck legs to a platter and add the stock to the pan over medium heat, stirring to scrape up the brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Return the duck legs to the pan, cover tightly, and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the duck meat is so tender it virtually falls off the bone. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the duck with a slotted spoon, and strain the remaining stock or broth; set aside.
To make the borscht: Heat the bacon fat in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the carrot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shredded cabbage and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Measure 4 cups of the reserved stock and add it to the vegetable mixture. Add the tomato puree, then lower the heat and bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.
Place the beets in a small saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until the beets are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the beets, reserving the cooking liquid. Measure the beets in a measuring cup and add an equal amount of the beet cooking liquid to the soup pot. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and bring the borscht back to a simmer. Dissolve the potato starch in 2 tablespoons of the cooked beet juice and add to the simmering borscht. Cook gently for an additional 2 minutes, or until the liquid is slightly thickened. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To make the garnish: Fill 1 large saucepan and 2 small saucepans with lightly salted water. Add the potatoes and turnips to the large pan and place the gently washed baby beets in the other 2 pans; do not cook the beets in the same pan or the red beets will “bleed” into the golden ones. Bring all 3 pots to a boil over medium-high heat and boil the potatoes and turnips for 20 minutes, or until tender; boil each pot of beets, covered, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until tender. Drain all the vegetables and let cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and trim the tops.
To serve: Place the borscht over low heat. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a foil and add the Swiss chard leaves. Cook until they are wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and blot them dry with paper towels. Add the blanched baby vegetables to the boiling water and cook for 45 seconds to rewarm. Remove with a slotted spoon. Arrange 3 to 4 leaves around the border of each soup plate. In the center of each bowl, arrange the julienne of carrots, onion, cabbage, and the beets that cooked in the soup. Cut the blanched baby vegetables in half and place them on top of the cabbage mixture. Pull the meat off the braised duck legs and divide among the bowls. Pour the hot borscht broth into the bowls. Garnish with dollops of sour cream and sprinkle liberally with bits of dill.