This comforting soup is a cross between a meaty borscht and my current obsession: caramelized cabbage. Both the flanken and cabbage lend a hand in its richness. You might just find yourself not needing any bouillon for this one.
If you can’t find golden beets, any beet will do. I just love the goldenness it promotes in the broth. Please do not, however, cut any cooking time of the cabbage. The longer you cook it, the better.
To make this vegetarian, add dried mushrooms for umami and double the vegetables in the broth to make it heartier. A cup of pearl barley would be a nice addition, too.
For the cabbage:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds green cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup leeks, halved and sliced
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
For the broth:
1-1 1/2 pounds flanken
2 carrots, unpeeled
2 celery stalks
1 head of garlic, unpeeled, halved crosswise
1 onion, unpeeled
1/4 cup fresh herbs of your choosing
10 cups water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the soup:
2 1/2 cups golden beets, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh herbs, to taste (optional)
Start by making the cabbage: Set a deep, large pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil.
Add the cabbage, leeks, salt and sugar. Immediately turn the heat down to low. Stir every 8-10 minutes (be careful not to interrupt the browning process by moving the cabbage around a lot) until the mix turns a deep brown, about 40 minutes. If at any point the pan looks too dry, gradually add a little more olive oil.
Once cooked, set the cabbage aside in a bowl lined with a paper towel. Pat down with more paper towel to remove any excess oil.
To make the broth, heat a large pot over high heat. Brown the flanken in batches, returning all the meat to the pot when the last batch is done.
Add the vegetables, herbs, salt and water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and turn down to a simmer. For the first 15 minutes, check on the broth to remove any foam that rises to the top. I like to skim off some of the fat as the flanken simmers, but you may find it easier to do this once the soup cools down and the fat solidifies.
After 1 1/2 hours, discard the vegetables and herbs, and add the beets, carrots and caramelized cabbage. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or until tender. Add salt, pepper, herbs to taste.