Ciorba is a traditional Eastern European soup, common in Romania, made with a souring agent that gives the final dish a fantastic, intense complexity. Vinegar and lemon juice are common additions for achieving that certain twang, but this ciorba uses another Eastern bloc ingredient, sauerkraut juice, to impart the sour note. (Consider the following recipe an excuse to also make reuben sandwiches, choucroute, or even sauerkraut salad with the pickled cabbage left over after being divested of its brine.) I've fancied this ciorba up a little with the addition of reconstituted dried mushrooms and caraway seeds, but there's no mistaking the dish itself. This is ciorba as it's meant to be: simple but bold. —Nostrovia_ca
dried wild mushrooms
white button or cremini mushrooms, wiped, trimmed, and sliced
dried red chili flakes
sour cream or Balkan-style yogurt
unbleached all-purpose flour
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
sour cream or yogurt, caraway seeds, and fresh thyme for garnish
Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Chop reconstituted mushrooms and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add caraway seeds and cook for about 1 minute, until they are fragrant. Add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released all their moisture and begin to caramelize around the edges. Remove from heat and reserve.
In a large saucepan, mix stock, sauerkraut juice, and reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and add the reconstituted dried mushrooms, cooked mushrooms, thyme sprigs (just throw them in whole; the leaves will come away from the branches while cooking), and chili flakes. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Fish out and remove now-leafless thyme branches.
Mix together sour cream or yogurt, egg yolk, and flour in a small bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of the soup broth to the yogurt mixture and stir until well blended. Scrape yogurt mixture into soup, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkling of caraway seeds and fresh thyme leaves.