Yield: about 10 servings
Robust and deeply flavorful, this soup makes a satisfying meal when served with good bread and a big green salad.
Some people prefer the soup served clear, with the beets strained out; others like it chunky. And some enrich the soup with egg yolks. I've given all options here.
For deeper beet flavor and more intense color, instead of adding the beets raw, roast them (unpeeled and wrapped in aluminum foil) until tender. Peel and shred or dice. Add to the soup 30-45 minutes before the meat is tender.
3 quarts beef or chicken broth, homemade or good-quality, low-sodium storebought
2 ½ pounds flanken
6 large garlic cloves, minced, plus 2 large whole garlic cloves
freshly ground black pepper
1 Turkish bay leaf
2 pounds beets, washed, peeled, and coarsely grated
about 3 tablespoons brown sugar
sour salt or fresh lemon juice to taste
snipped fresh dill
optional: 2 large egg yolks
optional garnish: a small potato, boiled until tender, then peeled, for each serving
In a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot, combine the broth with the meat over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a slow bubble, skimming the froth and scum that rise to the surface. Let the soup simmer, skimming until the broth is clear. Add the sliced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and bay leaf. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour. Add the beets, cover, and simmer until the meat is very tender, 1-2 hours more. Add sugar and enough sour salt or lemon juice to achieve a happy balance between tart and sweet. Taste and correct salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes longer.
Remove pot from heat and let the soup cool. Discard bay leaf. Take out the meat, cut it into bite-size pieces, and set it aside if you want to strain the soup.
For a clear soup, strain through a colander into a clean pot or bowl, pressing down on the solids with a wooden spoon. Discard the solids.
Return the meat to the soup, cover the pot, and chill in the refrigerator until all the fat has congealed on top. Scrape off fat and discard.
When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer. Mash the two remaining garlic cloves with a little salt to a fine puree. Stir the garlic puree into the soup and simmer about 7 minutes. Stir in a handful of dill and simmer 2 minutes more.
If desired, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly add 1 cup of the simmering broth to the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Then, slowly whisk this egg-broth mixture into the hot soup in the pot. Cook, stirring over low heat, just until the ingredients are well-incorporated and the soup is hot and slightly thickened.
To serve, place a potato, if using, in each soup bowl, and ladle soup over it. Make sure each serving includes plenty of meat. Sprinkle with additional fresh