Russian Cabbage Soup
For the beef broth:
4 lbs. beef shank, cut into 2-inch-thick rounds, or 4 lbs. beef brisket
1 large onion, halved
1 stalk celery
1 bouquet garni
For the soup:
12 dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 C. water for 1 hour
4 T. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small head cabbage, preferably Savoy
2 C. (1 pound) sauerkraut, rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh dill
For the broth: In a 4-quart pot combine the beef, onion, carrots, celery and bouquet garni. Add enough cold water to cover the beef and vegetables by about 1 inch. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Using a ladle, skim off any froth and fat that float to the surface. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is completely tender, so that a knife inserted into the meat offers no resistance. Strain the mixture, reserving the cooked beef and broth and discarding the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Set the beef aside to cool slightly. Cut the cooked meat into 1-inch cubes. If you used shanks, discard the bones.
For the soup: Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. If the mushrooms seem gritty or dirty, rinse them quickly under cold water. If the soaking water contains grit or sand, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.
In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms, onion, turnip, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to turn translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the strained beef broth and the mushroom-soaking liquid and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Meanwhile, shred the cabbage by first cutting it into quarters vertically through the core and trimming and discarding the white core from the center of each quarter. Finely slice the quartered cabbage. You should end up with about 4 cups chopped cabbage.
Add the cabbage to the soup and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sauerkraut and reserved beef and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Dollop each bowl of soup with sour cream and sprinkle with fresh dill or pass the sour cream and dill at the table.