Real Corned Beef and easy to make Vegetarian Borscht
July 27, 2010
Take a trip out to Brooklyn, NY if you can. It’s not that far away if you live in the NY Metro area. What you will find is a vibrant, exciting scene. Diverse in residents- there are many different countries represented between here and there.
One of these divergent culinary adaptations if you will is on the classic theory of Canadian Style deli. Sure there is deli food on nearly every block. The really well known delis like Katz’s, Carnegie, 2nd Avenue Deli- they are the ones that tourists always remember. If you live in New Jersey you have the Morristown Deli, Bragman’s and Hobby’s in Newark and a slew of others statewide. Some are good, some great and some just fantastic. I was practically weaned on deli foods. It’s part of my social DNA. What I love most is corned beef and a cup of borscht.
I remember going to the Friar’s Club as a boy with my dad who was a member at the time. You could always get a hot corned beef sandwich, standing statuesque on a plate, adorned by only a fat as a baby’s fist- pickled green tomato. On the side there would be a cup of borscht. Often there was a boiled new potato in the cup, taking up most of the small space- the sweet beets competing with the earthy qualities of the potato made for a standoff of sorts.
The food at the Friar’s Club was never great and there always was something to find fault with on the menu. But a bowl of the borscht and a corned beef sandwich on rye? Perfection every time, at least as my memory serves me.
Mile End, Brooklyn
Standing just off the main drag, Mile End is not your typical Deli. Their menu is pared down. There are no eggs every style and every combination. This is not a burger joint. You don’t come here for fried fish sandwiches or oysters po boys.
(although an oyster po-boy does sound good at 10:00 in the morning)
Mile End Restaurant is a labor of love.
What is Mile End? Well, for one it is a neighborhood in Montréal, Canada that is known for its artistic slant. Canadian expat- ex law student- Noah Bernamoff is the owner with his wife, Rae Cohen at the namesake restaurant in Boerum Hill, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY.
If you should show up at opening in the morning, you can enjoy a Montréal Bagel. The Montréal Bagel is different than the Bagels of every fast food type bagel shop in America. It is compact- small in size, about 3 inches around and about 2 inches thick. The ingredients includes egg and honey. You often see them with sesame seeds or poppy seeds covering the reddish brown, pocket sized treat. The dough seems to be fermented longer than the American version. I’m sure they are hand rolled and I’m positive the bagels at Mile End are baked in a wood fired oven. And yes, they are from Montréal, which is something a bagel from your local deli can’t say.
Your local bagel has no provenance.
Smoked Meat. What is Smoked Meat? First of all it is not like the mild, lean corned beef that I’m accustomed to. The spice balance is closer in flavor to cured and smoked pastrami. Pickling spices are not scraped off of the Creekstone Farms house smoked organic Beef Brisket. They are part of the experience of eating here. Orwashers does the bread. They are one of the last artisan bakeries in NYC. The rye bread here is smaller in size than what is served in the usual NY Deli. You can get your hands around a sandwich here and never want to let go of it, but you should so others can assume your seat when you leave. You cannot order smoked meat before 12 noon. Sometimes they run out. Follow them on Twitter to find out the “real time” status of the smoked meat. You wouldn’t want to be disappointed. We didn’t wait long, but be prepared to wait.
The process to make smoked meat is complicated. Pickling takes 11 days, the meat is smoked for at least eight hours, steamed for four more, and then finally it is ready to be served. This product doesn’t come from an assembly line commissary style kitchen in “Jersey” nor is it pickled by some manufacturer of “Deli” style meats better known for their Kosher-style hot dogs. The meat is organic, topped with a healthy layer of flavorful fat and the meat shatters into little flavorful bits when chewed.
Mile End does slow deli. The flavors are spicy. This is not tourist food. Good strong mustard is ground in house and more of those mustard seeds are used to make the smoked meat.
They also do Borscht which just knocked my socks off. And their coffee from Stumptown, served iced- charms!
It is really the Borscht that caught my attention. A deep pink in color, served with a healthy dollop of sour cream and pinched dill sprigs- even after enjoying a heaping cup of this soup- I’m still dreaming about it.
On a hot Summer day, a cooling bowl of Borscht is mighty fine eating with very simple and inexpensive ingredients. I recommend frozen shots of RUSSIAN VODKA!
My great grandmother’s recipe for Borscht
Take 7 large grated beets. Add them to a large stainless steel pot. Peel and grate 2 large Spanish Onions. Add to the onions a bunch of carrots (about 5 or 6) also peeled and grated. Grate a head of red cabbage, add that to the pot. Add about 4-8 cups of vegetable stock. Add a cup of white wine. Simmer all the ingredients together for several hours. Puree in a food processor in small batches. Let sit overnight to combine the flavors in the fridge. Slice a few roasted beets and add them just before serving.
Garnish with a boiled new potato. Finish with a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle some freshly snipped dill on top. You can also serve this soup hot in the winter. Dark Rye bread with sweet butter and frozen Vodka shots are a common side dish for this meal in a bowl.
I ended up taking home a large container of the Borscht from Mile End. I enjoyed it the next day with some grilled smoked meat. That is perfection!
This article is dedicated to the poetry and brilliant photography of Anniegotgun. Thanks again for the follow-back!
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
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