Cheryl’s Cusine: January 2020

By Cheryl Radkiewicz

One of my most fervent wishes for the new year includes the opening of restaurants.  Oh, how I miss meeting my friends for lunch.  

This brings me back to memories of one of my favorite New York City restaurants, which I frequented quite often….The Russian Tea Room.  Of course, the restaurant no longer exists, but memories remain.  My sister and I would hop on a bus in Scranton and go shopping for the day.  It was usually lunch at the Tea Room and dinner at La Fondue or Katja.  

It was 40 years ago that my sister and I were shopping in the city and we came upon “The Russian Tea Room Cookbook”.   I thought I’d died and gone straight to heaven.  I had never seen the book sold around here.  I grabbed up a copy and now, 40 years later, it is one of my most cherished items.  The pages are worn and stained from use. The recipes make some of the most wonderful, delectable meals you will ever enjoy.

Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in January, and being of Russian heritage,  my Christmas decorations remain up throughout the month.  So this month, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite recipes from the cookbook.

Hot Borscht

6 cups beef or chicken consomme’  ( I use stock)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups julienne strips of raw beets
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh dill weed
Sour cream

Pour consomme’ into large soup kettle.  Add tomato sauce, cabbage, carrots and onions.  Bring to boiling point and turn heat to low.  Skim soup.  Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender but still keep their shape.  Skim as needed.  Stir in sugar and add the beets. 

Simmer, covered, for 10 more minutes or until beets are tender.  Check seasonings; if necessary, add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in vinegar.  Pour into individual soup bowls and sprinkle with dill.  Serve hot with sour cream on the side.  Serves 6.


Beef Stroganoff

2 lbs. lean boneless sirloin or bottom round, in one piece, trimmed of fat and gristle
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. powdered yellow mustard or 1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine ( I use Chablis or Chardonnay)
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 cup sour cream, warmed

Cut meat into 1/2″ thick slices.  Place between 2 sheets of waxed paper.  Pound with mallet until meat is 1/4″ thick.  Be careful not to tear the meat.  Cut meat into 2″x 1/2″ slices.  Place slices in one layer on large platter.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. 

Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in heavy, deep frying pan or shallow saucepan large enough to hold all ingredients.  Add sliced onion and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until beginning to soften.  Add meat to pan. Cook for 3 minutes, turning beef slices constantly so they are evenly browned on all sides.  

Stir in flour and mustard and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.  Add the 1/2 cup wine and tomato paste.  Reduce heat to low, cover pan,  and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  In another frying pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the minced onion and the mushrooms.  Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, add the 2 tablespoons of wine and cook for 2 more minutes; mushrooms should still be firm.

Add mushrooms and their liquid to the pan containing the meat.  Check seasoning and stir in sour cream.  Over lowest possible heat, simmer for about 5 minutes to heat dish through.  Do NOT boil.  Serve over a bed of hot cooked rice or wide noodle.  Serves 4-6.


Ham a la Russe

2 lbs. lean, cooked ham, 1/4″ thick
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 tsp. flour
1/2 cup Madeira
3 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup sour cream
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Trim fat from ham.  Make small incisions around edges to prevent curling during cooking.  Cut ham into serving pieces; the number depends on the shape of the ham slices (round or rectangular), but there should be 3-4 pieces for each serving.  Blot ham slices dry on both sides with paper towels.  Heat butter and oil in large heavy frying pan.  Add as many ham slices as frying pan will hold in 1 layer and without touching.  Cook ham over medium heat for about 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned.  

Transfer cooked ham to heated serving dish and keep hot in low oven (150-175 degrees F.)  Repeat with remaining ham and, if necessary, lower the heat.  Remove rest of ham to serving dish.  If there is too much fat left from frying ham, pour off all but 1 teaspoon.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir flour into pan drippings.   Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in Madeira and water.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is smooth and thickened.  Stir in sour cream, pepper and any juices in serving dish containing the cooked ham.  Cook, stirring all the time, until sauce is heated through, but do NOT boil.  Spoon sauce over ham, allowing 2 1/2 tablespoons for each serving, or serve sauce separately. 

NOTE: For double the amount of sauce, use 2 tsp. fat, 4 tsp. flour, 1 cup Madeira, 1/3 cup water, 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups sour cream, and pepper to taste.


Mushroom a la Russe

3-4 quarts water
2 Tbsp. salt
2 lbs. mushrooms
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup minced onion (1 medium onion)
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine water and salt in large kettle and bring to boiling point.  Meanwhile, trim mushrooms, place in a bowl and wash quickly, but thoroughly, under running water, swishing them around with your hands.  Drain mushrooms and put them into boiling water.  Cook over medium heat for no more than 2 minutes after water has resumed boiling.  Drain in a colander.  Place drained mushrooms stem side down on a platter lined with 3 thicknesses of paper towels to drain further.  Pat dry with more paper towels.; they must be as dry as possible or dish will be soupy.  Cool mushrooms and slice thinly.  Reserve.

Heat butter in large deep frying pan or shallow saucepan.  Add onion.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until soft; do not brown.  Add mushrooms.  Cook, stirring all the time, for 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle with flour, toss well and cook for 2 more minutes.  Combine milk and sour cream in small saucepan, and heat, stirring;  do NOT boil.  Add to the mushrooms and mix thoroughly.  Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and ground coriander.  Turn into individual baking dishes or a 10-12 cup baking dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cook in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Serve hot. Serves 6.  


Russian Cream

1/2 cup water
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 drop red food coloring
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/3 cup grenadine syrup

Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Stir to blend.  Set the bowl in a pan of boiling water and dissolve the gelatin.  While gelatin is dissolving, beat cream until almost stiff.  Beat in sugar gradually, a little at a time beating well after each addition.  Do NOT overbeat.  Stir in food coloring into whipped cream.  Cool gelatin to lukewarm.  Place softened ice cream in a large bowl.  With a wire whisk, beat cooled gelatin into the soft ice cream.  Fold in the whipped cream.  

Spoon equal amounts of the cream into 6 individual dessert dishes, or preferably, long-stemmed dessert glasses.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  At serving time, sprinkle each dish with 1 tablespoon slivered almonds and top with 1 tablespoon grenadine syrup.  Serves 6.    

NOTE: This dessert is “out of this world” wonderful!

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