Fermentation lies at the heart of Russian cuisine as one of the most ancient techniques of preparing food. As you will notice throughout this book, numerous recipes rely on sauerkrauts, kvass, or rassol (the fermentation liquid) for their distinct tangy flavor. This soup, which carries the name rassol in its very title, is the embodiment of such a tradition. While historically rassolnik is an old Russian dish, the go-to recipe in our family comes from Poland. Back in the 1970s, my mom took part in a school program that allowed Soviet kids to find pen pals in neighboring socialist countries. She hit the jackpot, since she was linked up with a boy in Poland (the most coveted country of all friendly socialist ones). After a few years of correspondence, my mom and her parents were invited—and most importantly permitted by the Soviet officials—to visit her pen pal. Along with a bag full of trendy garments, chewing gum, and fancy stationery, which made her the coolest teenager in school, she brought back this recipe for a good old Russian rassolnik, cooked by her Polish friend’s mom. The delicious soup always reminds me of the interwoven nature of the Soviet and Slavic histories and cuisines.
When it’s the dead of winter and there are no fresh, vibrant berries or stone fruits to speak of (at least, not the type that hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles and has the “meh” flavor and price tag to prove it), baking can seem kind of dreary. There are only so many brownies and chocolate chip cookies a person can take. It’s then that apples and pears are the answer. Hearty with a long storage life, you’re bound to find a couple rattling around the fridge just about any time of year.
This is one of my personal favorites, and it’s also the most popular rye bread in our bakeries. It’s a light and tender loaf that stays fresh for a long time. Here, the fabulous, intense taste of dark malt and rye is supplemented by the lovely crunchiness of pumpkin seeds. If you can’t get your hands on cut rye berries, which give the bread a chewy bite, you can just as easily use cracked rye berries.
Tarragon was made for chicken and mushrooms. Its muted aniseed flavour is somehow both bold and gentle; the sponginess of the mushrooms just soaks up the tarragon and their earthiness marries with it beautifully. The second wonder of this dish is its simplicity – just throw everything into the pan, place the chicken on top and roast.
Chicken pot pie is one of the most classic comfort foods there is. The thing with pot pie, though, is the crust is complicated and can get soggy easily. This version uses tots as the crust, so it’s easy to make and will be super crispy every time. You can make this in a large baking pan, but I like to use individual baking dishes so my guests can dig into their own little pies.
This is easily a meal in itself.
Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Add celery, carrot, onion, and rosemary and cook until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add stock and chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove half of chickpeas and purée until smooth; return chickpeas to pan. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with parsley and Parmigiano sprinkled on top.
1. Toast the anise seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and coarsely grind.
In a large pot, combine the chicken, onions, yam, fennel, dill, and wine, and season with salt and pepper. Add enough cold water to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the vegetables break up easily with a fork, 1 1/2-2 hours.
Soba noodles are classically made with 100 percent buckwheat flour, and those are the ones I seek out whenever possible.