Orange is the New Black — A Study on Red Part 1. Borscht

Redpart1Season 3 is out of Orange is the New Black! Yes I know, if you are a fan, you had already binge-watched your way through it ages ago. I know I did, I certainly was not disappointed. The writers delivered a fun-filled story with erotic pulp science-fiction, contraband underwear, unexpected friendships, and mass-produced prison food so disgusting that it causes religious revelations.

Speaking of food, today I want to spend time talking about my favorite Starfleet Captain turned Russian Prison Cook, Galina “Red” Reznikov, played by Kate Mulgrew.

Red is everyone’s mom, even to the people she doesn’t like. She loves two things: her family and her food. She will defend the both of them to the point of starving out anyone who insults her cooking, taking a beating to near death to save her prison family, risking her smuggling business to keep drugs out of her prison, and spending days in search of a fabled chicken to “absorb its power, and make a nice Kiev.” As the show progresses through the seasons, it is clear that there is no matter where she is, whether in Russia, her family restaurant, or Lichfield Prison, as long as she is in the kitchen, Red is at home.

Red is bold, colorful, sour, bitter, but through it all, a sweet, welcoming presence best served both warm and cold. In many ways, you can compare her to borscht. If you’ve never had borscht before, this velvety beet soup’s most prominent notes are sweet and sour. Traditionally the sourness comes from fermented beet juice, though I’ve decided to use fish sauce in this version. Other flavors you’ll be getting are caraway seed, which usually gives rye bread its very distinct flavor, and orange bitters to complement and tone down the sometimes overpowering sweetness of the beets. Feel free to garnish each bowl with goat’s cheese, sour cream, fresh dill or parsley, or black pepper.

While this version of borscht may not be wholly traditional, neither is Red. This will also be the base of next Tuesday’s recipe: Red’s Ratatouille. So make sure to reserve at least 1 1/2 – 2 cups for next week!

Red's Borscht

Serves 6-8
Equipment:  1 large saucepan or pot, and blender or immersion blender.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion photo borschtbeets_zps2wrnaqy1.jpg
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 2 golden or russet potatoes
  • 2-3 beets (roughly 1 pound)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 dashes orange bitters
  • 3-4 dashes fish sauce.

Instructions:

  1.  Chop onion and carrot. Peel and chop potatoes and beets, keep separate from the other vegetables.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, add onion carrot and garlic with a splash of broth and cover. Cook until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except the bitters and fish sauce and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  4.  Remove the pan from heat and blend contents smooth with an immersion blender. Stir in bitters and fish sauce.
  5. Serve, or chill for a few hours in the fridge if you would prefer a cold soup.

You can watch all of Orange is the New Black on Netflix (Yay original series!), the first two seasons on Amazon Instant Video, or find them on DVD in my Amazon store.

The Gluttonous Geek