Russian Pelmeni + Borscht: The Red Dilemma

Now, you know. I hold grudges….which is why I couldn’t leave our Borscht attempt in that pitiful orange state. I made a vow. And I make good on those. Bringing my husband in tow, we decided to Iron Chef Russia ourselves and take on 3 recipes in one night: Russian Pelmeni, Borscht again, and Lemon Drop Martini to see it through.

Pelmeni is a like an American Chicken Dumpling except it’s filled with ground pork, ground beef, and onions. Here’s the kicker: We have to make the dough. Our own pasta. From scratch. Up until this point, I didn’t think that anyone ever did that. Who makes their own pasta, afterall? It comes in a nice box. I hate that it takes 15 minutes to boil noodles. I’d never ever would have guess we’d attempt this. And by all means, I would have skipped it. But Pelmeni is supposed to be a key Russian dish and to leave Russia without ever attempting it would have been cheating.

Which is why it was my first priority to find a recipe with as many pictures as possible. Who else but a fellow blogger would do that?! I was content…until it came time to gather intell Thursday night on ingredients and actually read the directions. That’s when I began frowning. While it has many pretty pictures,  this gal uses a bread maker for the dough. The dough is the hardest part. The mix of beef, pork, and onion is ridiculously easy. It’s practically not even a step. Thankfully, I scanned the comments and found a Ukrainian family food blog that had 3 pics and detailed dough instructions.

After combining egg, sour cream, water, milk, and a frick ton of flour (5-6 cups), we began beating the dough. Severely. What can I say? It wasn’t Friday yet. So, after only 8 minutes of brutal kneading, we hid our bruised dough under a bowl and let think about what it had done to deserve its punishment for a whole hour.

Now that we both had our blood pumping, it donned on me us that we still had all the ingredients for Borscht. After I pleaded We decided to go ahead and try again with the soup. This time, we didn’t take any chances. We must not fail.

Already knowing the weirdo instructions, we didn’t question them or take them too seriously. We decided to place the peeled tomatoes with the stock pot and the diced with the skillet. Mystery solved. We did boil 1 beet whole (which we promptly ate) and 1 diced. As we watched our stock pot, we saw an immediate difference. This time it was red, red. We did have a tense moment when we added the mashed potatoes to the pot where it turned pink. But I quickly grabbed the tomato cabbage mixture and threw at the pot, where the power of acid turned it back to red. And we nailed it baby. Soup’s done. We are victorious. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!

Feeling celebratory, we decided it was time to try our first ever lemon drop martinis. Martinis because that’s how Russians keep warm during those long, bitter cold winter months…with a hearty supply of vodka. While winter may be over, Ohio is still very cold. That 65 degree temperature yesterday was down right brutal.

No, I’m not like Sandra Lee from Semi-Homemade cooking. I promise. You won’t see me come up with a hard liquor cocktail for every meal. I promise.

I should mention that while at the store, we…um..failed to find the “sweet and sour mix.” And for some reason, thought sweet and sour sauce would suffice. We also had no luck in the vodka section. I mean, we bougtht vodka. But the brands were horrible. I’m a Smirnoff girl myself. A good sized liquor store would have had more than 3 brands of vodka to choose from. The trouble is we live in Ohio where liquor is sold everywhere. Everyone and their grandma out here has a license to sell it. This means that any local store (including non superstore Target) have 2 isles of wine and even gas stations.

This is a 180 from back in Colorado, where only liquor stores carry the bulk of liquor items (aside from beer) and treat you like a convict on a felonious spree when you want to buy some. “Ma’am, Sir, I need to see both of your ID’s before you enter the store. You need to put that purse in one of the following cages. Let me run your fingerprints. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

You may be laughing but the first two are actually truthful. You can laugh harder now.

For our martinis, we carved off a lemon peel and moistened the edges in a pile of sugar we poured onto the counter. Lacking a shaker, we snatched up my Starbucks mug (GREAT idea, one of many) and piled in vodka, sweet and sour sauce, and lime juice.

It…was….disgusting.

We tried not adding as much lime, adding more sauce, more nasty tasting vodka, and started pouring our sugar from the counter into the drink…all to no avail. It was bad. Very, very, bad.

Thankfully, the hour was up and it was time to actually make the main dish (so we will never mention the previous incident above again in case you were wondering). We were out of steam by this point and really running low on sanity. But the idea of making our own pasta perked us up a little. The pictures looked so easy too.

Step 1) Tear off dough and form into snake.

Step 1) Realize we should have added flour to the wax paper since dough is now stuck on it. Peel off wax paper off of the bruised butt of the dough. Or Rip off and throw away chuck that seems to have solidified and then, tear off dough and form into snake. P.S. How the heck do you form into snake?

Step 2) Cut into perfectly uniform chucks.

Step 2) Dough is sticky. Slather in flour. Have the intention of uniformity. Reality = every piece was unique. Pasta comes in all sizes, right?

Step 3) Beat with a spoon and roll out perfect circles of finely pressed dough.

Step 3) Take that dough. Perfect my ass. I’ve never seen such a disjointed group.

Step 4) Add a dollop of meat mix and squeeze into shape.

Step 4) Add meat. Make fun of each other’s pudgy and thin pelmeni pieces.

Step 5) Boil water, add some pelmeni, wait for them to float. Cook 3-4 minutes and you’re all set.

Stare at each other shocked that it actually worked.

We added butter to the steaming Pelmeni and dill spice to the top. We ate them by mixing sour cream and sweet and sour sauce together. They’re were very good. However, we made them way to big. They were also chewy, sticky, and a tad gummy to eat. But we can’t tell if that’s how home made pasta is supposed to be or if it was our fault. But we didn’t care. We made our own pasta and it was edible.

The Borscht was very good. Since it’s full of vegetables, it’s a perfect side to Pelmeni.

Not to rain on our glorious parade but the Borscht did turn from red to pink while it sat in our refrigerator overnight. A hot, malibu Barbie pink we both felt a tad disturbed to look at. That’s when we turned the lights down low for dinner and secretly agreed we liked the carrot top color soup better as a leftover.

Unless in the future, we throw an all girl slumber party where Barbie is the theme, I don’t see it making another show in our house.

You can find the recipes here: Borscht, Russian Pelmeni, Pelmeni Dough, and the Lemon Drop Martini if you’re brave enough.

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2 Responses to Russian Pelmeni + Borscht: The Red Dilemma

  1. Krista says:

    I can’t believe you used sweet and sour sauce in a lemon drop martini, that sounds so wrong!
    You should go looking for the sweet and sour mix again 😀
    It is so awesome you made your own pasta! I want to try that!

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