116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So this won't be the first Eastern European soup recipe that I've shared that claims to be the perfect hangover remedy. It's in line with the same folk remedies that prescribe chicken soup or whiskey for most any ailment.
What sets this Ukrainian classic apart from the rest is that it's a combination of two different hangover cures. Whether that makes it twice as effective, I really can't say. What I do know is that it is amazing, delicious and pretty simple to put together.
Rassolnik is a beef and pickles soup; hangover cure. Shchi (SHEE) is a sour cabbage soup; hangover cure. Put them together and you have Solyanka. It's a cure for so much more than a hangover.
I first learned about this one from my Ukrainian roommate when I lived in St Louis. When she found out that I cooked for a living she said, 'Oh, then you must make us Solyanka. It is perfect.” I did some digging and found a recipe. It was the kind of recipe that I like to work with - big on principles, short on specifics. Flexible.
It got my interest up. I looked into variants of the recipe. Oh my, now that is one deep rabbit hole. With a lot of twists and turns. It turns out that Solyanka is sort of a kitchen sink kind of recipe to turn your leftovers into something edible. In this case, something exceptional. I made a few batches, with whatever we had around, whatever we could get our hands on.
A few months later, a guy shows up at my house and offers me a job at a Russian restaurant. Pure coincidence. I get there and say, 'Hey, how do you feel about Solyanka?” They hesitated at first. I made a batch to run as a weekend special. The owner fell in love with it, and her Russian clientele were clamoring over it, so it went straight on the menu. Really, everyone was asking after it. So it goes. Give the people what they pay for.
I really can't put my finger on what it is that makes Solyanka so profound. It has sweet elements, sour, savory, lots of umami. It's the way the ingredients are interchangeable that confuses me. Beef, pork, chicken or mushrooms, even fish: it comes together in the same way. From what I've found, the core ingredients are a shortlist: meats, broth, tomatoes, pickled cucumbers and cabbage. If you have those five things, then you can play around and make some Solyanka.
This also is an unusual recipe because it doesn't add garlic or spices, or even much salt. It's in the pickles and the sausage.
Since we're using the brine from the pickles and sauerkraut, it carries that spiced zing with it. Think of it like making a stir fry, where you let the soy sauce do the salting for you.
This is a Ukranian recipe, so we're going to see some familiar things here, just like Borscht. The raw vegetables, the sausages and the bacon all want to get fried in a cast-iron pan separately before being added to the pot.
You're trying to get a nice brown color on them but not burn them. This is that extra that makes your soup delicious instead of boring. Also, since it's a Slavic recipe, it's going to get sour cream and scallions on top.
The other great thing about Solyanka is that it's a good way to use up leftovers. You have some leftover chicken wings? Pull some meat off and throw them in. Have some extra bratwurst from grilling last night? Slice them up, fry them and throw them in. Have fun with it, be creative and give it some flare. Want more vegetables in there? Toss in some carrots, celery, bell peppers or root vegetables. Think of it like you think of pizza. Pizza can have many different toppings and still be wonderful, as long as it has the crust, sauce and cheese. Solyanka can turn leftovers into a spectacular feast, as long as it has broth, tomatoes, pickles and sauerkraut.
Don't rush it
Solyanka is a thick soup, almost a stew. That means it wants to 'marry” in the fridge overnight. The cooling and settling process gives the flavors time to bind together and chemically react with each other. Marrying is an easy way to get more flavors out of your food without adding any exotic ingredients. It's one of those things that sets restaurant food apart from home cooking. Just due to the nature of cooking things in high volumes, most food you're going to get in a from-scratch restaurant will have to be made in advance and therefore have an opportunity to marry. But hey, when you're cooking up leftovers, it's kind of nice to skip a day, right? That puts a little magic and mystery into it. A little extra.
Chef Tibbs, also known as Joshua 'Tibbs” Tibbetts, is a Cedar Rapids native who has been a professional chef for more than 30 years.
Serves 4 to 6
2 quarts bone broth, preferably homemade; Chicken, beef or pork
2 Kosher dill pickles, diced
1 cup dill pickle juice
1/2 cup sauerkraut, chopped
1/2 cup sauerkraut juice
12 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce (if you are using store bought broth)
2 chicken legs (or leftover chicken or turkey, diced)
2 smoked sausage (3/4 pound), Ukranian, Polish kielbasa, andouille or leftover grilled bratwurst
2 slices bacon, diced
1 pound onion, diced (about 1 1/2 medium onions)
Up to 1 cup other vegetables, diced (sweet peppers, carrots, celery, etc.)
2 tablespoons Sriracha or Sambal (optional if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
Salt to taste or just use more pickle/sauerkraut brine
A few dollops sour cream or homemade creme fraiche
A couple scallions, finely chopped
Crusty bread - because we're eating soup
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken legs on a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt. Roast chicken legs on the middle shelf until the meat pulls easily away from the ankle. Then pull it out and let it cool to room temperature.
While the chicken is roasting, combine the broth, tomato paste, pickles, sauerkraut and their juices in a 1 gallon pot and gently warm them up. When it starts to warm up, give a good stir to mix in the tomato paste. You don't want to get it too hot or that tomato paste will scorch.
Slice the sausages into discs and fry them over medium high heat in a cast-iron pan with a little bit of oil. You don't want much oil, just a touch. Stir them frequently, and get some nice brown color on them. Transfer them to the pot when they look nice and brown.
Fry up the bacon in the pan when the sausages come out. When it's brown and your house smells amazing, put the bacon in the soup pot but try to save the fat. Tilt the pan a little and push the bacon bits up to the top. Scrape them off from there while the hot grease settles in the bottom of the pan.
Fry the onions in that bacon fat. Get them nice and brown, but not quite blackened. Any other vegetables you want in there get fried up along with the onions. Once browned, it goes in the pot.
The chicken should have cooled by now. Pull the meat from the bones and chop it into spoon-sized chunks. Add that to the soup. Put the bones in a container, cover them with water and put them in the freezer, for your next batch of broth.
Now that the gang's all together, cook it together gently for about an hour, then transfer it to the fridge, either the whole batch together, or divide it up into smaller containers. Let it all cool overnight in the fridge. The soup that sets is the soup that's best. All those flavors will combine chemically into a big meta-flavor when they cool together.
The next day, just warm and serve. Toast up some crusty bread so we can clean every last bite out of our bowls. Put a dollop of sour cream on each bowl, and sprinkle with the scallions. Enjoy. I hope this will make your head feel better after last year.
Source: Joshua Tibbetts