White borsch

Polish white borsch or zurek

Commonly served for Easter, when I was going to make it but got sidetracked with other eastery paschal doings, this white borscht can be found in rotation on many Ukrainian and Polish restaurant and deli menus year-round because it’s a crowd-pleaser. Having made it I now know why. This recipe is an homage to the Polish white borscht, also known as zurek or Zur. It’s magnificent, blended and creamy, rich and peppery, smokey and sour,due to the inclusion of rye bread or sourdough, and hearty because it’s filled with half-moons of Kielbasa sausage  and sliced hard-boiled egg. Speaking of ingredients, the quality of the kielbasa really makes a difference here—you’re looking for a 1½- to 2-inch-wide, usually over a foot long, smoked, and semi-dried kielbasa packed with black pepper and garlic, sometimes labeled as “wedding sausage.” Kielbasa doesnt feature here in the Algarve so i had to think on my feet, and discovering this soup is often served with white sausage I sourced white German Thüringer Rostbratwurst that had just the write level of spice and pepperiness to match the parsnip in this soup.
German Thüringer Rostbratwurst

The best you can get will most likely be in a glass case or hanging on a wall in your local Eastern European deli or market,( if you are lucky enough to have one). Here you can also purchase your rye bread. It will come wrapped in paper which means the sausage will perfume your refrigerator and tempt you to eat it every time you open the door. The broth for white borscht is usually made by boiling sausage in water, but this recipe calls for a combination of water and chicken broth because I think when you can, why not use broth as a flavour amplifier? You can absolutely use all water if there’s no broth on hand, just add a bit more salt to taste. No parsnip? No problem! Use an extra carrot or two! I had more parsnip than carrot so overturned that quandary. If you can’t have gluten remove the bread, use 2 additional potatoes and add a cup of sauerkraut to the soup before blending. If you can’t have dairy, remove the butter and sour cream, and replace them with olive oil and your favorite plant-based Greek-style yogurt. If you can’t have kielbasa, I’m sorry, probably abandion ship now, there is no vegetarian option here. 
White Borsch
1 pound smoked kielbasa, aka "Wedding Sausage", cut into 3 or 4 pieces
3 medium white potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and quartered
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 to 3 dried bay leaves
3 teaspoons (or more) kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 parsnip (about 6 ounces), peeled, and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 small carrots (about 6 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed, and coarsely chopped
5 slices seedless light rye bread or rye sourdough bread
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup packed finely chopped parsley, plus more for serving
6 to 12 hard-boiled eggs

In a large saucepan, bring the sausage, potatoes, broth, peppercorns, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. (Now would be a great time to chop/prep the vegetables.)
In a large heavy stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. A little colour is okay. Add the celery, parsnip, carrot, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice more. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until slightly softened and fragrant.
Ladle 1 cup of the simmering broth from the saucepan and pour into the pot of vegetables. Using a wooden spoon, scrape and release any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pot while the broth bubbles. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Once the sausage has plumped up and is no longer wrinkled, remove the sausage from the broth and transfer to a cutting board. Test the potatoes for doneness with a fork: if a fork easily slides into the potato or the potato breaks in half, they are ready. Remove from the heat.
Remove and discard the bay leaves. Carefully transfer the broth and potatoes to the pot with the vegetables, starting with a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes, then finishing with the broth to prevent hot splatter. Stir to combine.
Add the bread, vinegar, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring twice, for about 10 minutes, until the bread is ultra-soggy and easily breaks apart as you stir. While waiting for this last bit of cooking time to pass, slice the sausage into half-moons, slice or quarter the hard-boiled eggs, and divide among bowls.
Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender (or in batches with a standard blender), very carefully blend the hot soup until smooth. Add the sour cream and parsley, then stir (or blend once more) until fully combined and no streaks of sour cream remain. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup over the eggs and sausage. Garnish with more parsley before serving.
Do Ahead: The soup can be made 4 days ahead. Store the soup separately from the sausage and hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan with a splash of water over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until hot and steaming, but not boiling.


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