This recipe has long been a touchstone for me in the soup-as-meal category, especially in cold weather. As much as I enjoy experimenting, I often circle back to this updated version of the Ashkenazi Jewish classic. I add a good hit of paprika like my Hungarian grandmother, but use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. I also replace the usual raisins with dried currants, for a less pushy sweet note. A dollop of cool sour cream melting into the hot soup is optional, but raises the delicious level significantly. —amysarah
2 1/2 pounds
Beef short ribs or shanks (or any flavorful bone-in cut)
In a large soup pot, bring broth, water and beef to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, skimming any residue that rises to the surface.
Add all the remaining soup ingredients, except the currants. (It will seem like a lot of cabbage at first, but will cook down substantially.)
Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Then add the currants and cook another 30 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the bone tender.
Taste and adjust flavor, if needed, by adding more salt, or pepper, lemon juice and/or brown sugar. It should be sweet and sour, but not cloyingly sweet or mouth-puckeringly sour.
Discard the bay leaf and fish out the bones and any large chunks of meat that have fallen away. When cool enough to handle, discard the bones, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and put it back into the soup.
You can eat the soup right away, but the flavor improves after a night or two in the refrigerator, which also allows you to easily discard the solidified fat from the surface. Reheat gently, stirring occasionally.
Serve hot, topping each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.