Ah, tradition. What I wanted to talk to you about was meatless soup for the traditional Slavic Christmas Eve dinner. The Soup Lady is a delightful combination of ethnicity: Polish, Slovak and Lithuanian. If they seem indistinguishable to you, pay close attention: Ye shall know them by their Christmas soups. If you need to find out about French Christmas Soup or Mexican Christmas Soup, you'll have to go elsewhere. But if your aim is to pass yourself of as a Slovak when you are amongst the Poles, well then, you've come to the right place. Take my advice and don't try to fake it as a Lituanian - can't be done.
Slovak Christmas Soup
Caution: Use elbow macaroni only; using anything else brings you dangerously close to an Italian influence and the Slovak-Americans like to pretend that they invented elbow macaroni and would call it something else if they could.
In a large saucepan, gently saute 1 onion (chopped ) in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in a 15 oz. can of sauerkraut (with the juice). Add 6 cups of water, 3 cups of chopped mushrooms, 1 clove of garlic (chopped fine) and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 1 hour. Add 3/4 cup ELBOW macaroni and simmer for 10 more minutes. Makes 6 servings .
Lithuanian Christmas Soup
You take your red beets ... what the heck. It's borscht. For this , I refer you to Mrs. Smith's Zippy Beet Soup. My Mrs. Smith is a bona fide Lithuanian-American, do don't be fooled by the name. Of course, you can make a hot version, but this is the most lovely, tangy concoction that the Soup Lady has tasted in a good long while. Of course, you would have to be partial to vinegar to agree with me.
To see the recipe for Mrs. Smith's Zippy Beet Soup, click here.
Polish Mushroom Soup
This is the one that Martha Stewart makes and this recipe is lifted straight off of her TV show. Note the specific and detailed instructions. I doubt that they have shiitake mushrooms and orzo in Poland (or even in Nutley NJ) but still, it's the authentic version of what's on every Polish American Christmas Eve table. Can't argue with that. Observe how Martha seems to be unfamiliar with the Elbow Macaroni Rule.
5 to 6 ounces (about 4 to 6) dried mushrooms such as Polish borowik or cepes
12 large dried shiitake mushrooms
3 quarts beef stock
5 medium ribs celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup orzo
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
1 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms. Place mushrooms in 2 cups of cold water, and soak for at least 4 hours or overnight, refrigerate. In a large pot, bring the stock to a simmer. Add the celery, onions, and carrots. Strain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the strained soaking liquid to the soup. Chop the hydrated mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces slightly larger than the diced vegetables, and add to the soup. Add the sliced white button mushrooms. Cover, and cook the soup until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Bring the soup to a boil. Stirring constantly, add the orzo. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, and, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking, cook until the orzo is cooked through, another 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove 1 cup of the broth from the soup, and add to the roux, whisking constantly until slightly thickened and free of lumps. Stir the thickened liquid into the soup. Add the chopped parsley and dill. Finish the soup with sour cream: Add 1/4 cup of the thickened soup to the sour cream. Whisk until smooth. Add the sour cream to the soup, whisking constantly until it is well incorporated, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.