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Rassolnik - Chicken Soup with Pickles

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rassolnik is a fairly common traditional Russian soup. Its name comes from the Russian word rassol, or brine in which pickled cucumbers are kept. It is true that brine can be used in preparing this soup, but it is not essential. In practice, pickled cucumbers alone are sufficient to give the broth the tangy acidity and the peculiar flavor of pickles. When choosing pickles, brined cucumbers, kosher dill cucumbers, or any other pickled cucumbers not too high in acidity will work fine. Traditionally, this soup is made with chicken kidneys, but this requires quite a bit more patience on the part of the cook, and a lot less squeamishness on the part of the eater. In my family, we have always cooked it with chicken. Hence, Rassolnik is almost your regular chicken soup, but with pickles, and to me it tastes distinctly of home, whatever and wherever it may be.

What you need:
for the broth:
1 whole chicken
3 laurel leaves
~10 capricorns
1 large carrot
1 yellow onion
salt to taste

to garnish:
chopped greens
sour cream
for the soup:
1 large carrot
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium potatoes
1/4 cup dry barley
4 large pickles, not too sour
2 Tbsp oil

How to do it
1. Start the broth in a 4-quart (just under 4 liters) pot or a little bit bigger and follow mamma's instructions on making the broth in her post on Chicken Noodles. This will take about 1.5 hours for a medium chicken. Celery and garlic mama uses are not necessary. I usually wash the whole chicken and put it whole into the pot. If it's a grocery chicken, it has probably been cleaned out, so just make sure there is nothing inside it and rinse it before using.

2. Place barley in a medium pot and rinse with cold water. Drain rinsing water and add 3 cups of clean cold water to the pot. Salt to taste and set to cook on medium heat. The barley will expand several times and soak up water, but the mixture in the pot should remain liquid. This way, the natural slime of the grain will boil out into the water. If at some point too much of the water evaporates and the barley becomes thick, add more boiling water from the kettle and stir. Cook for about 40 minutes or until barley is done, stirring occasionally. When the barley is done strain it in a sieve, rinse in cold water and set to drain. Once again, this is to get rid of its sliminess.

3. Prepare the fry-in, i. e. fried mixture to be added to the soup at the end. Slice carrots, chop onions and sauté both together in olive oil on medium heat until golden brown and fully cooked.

4. When the broth is done, strain it (or just fish out the chicken and all the other stuff). Pick the chicken off the bones and slice it into bite-sized bits.

5. Set the broth on medium heat. Slice potatoes and add them in when the broth begins to boil. Five minutes later add pickles, chopped into quarter-rounds. Taste the salt and add more if necessary.

6. Add barley, chicken and the fry-in. If the soup is too thick, add boiling water from the kettle, mix and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. This soup should be on the saltier side, but I will not risk giving an exact measure. Turn off when potatoes are cooked through (about 15 minutes, but make sure to taste).

7. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallions and/or dill, and enjoy!

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