The name of this soup comes from one of the main ingredients, rassol, or brine. Like many old Russian dishes that appeared a long time ago, most of the ingredients are up for debate. The soup varies from region to region; it can be made with veal or lamb kidneys, pork or beef kidneys, or prime cuts of meat, chicken or oxtails. Some people include barley and potatoes, and some make it so thick that you can stick a spoon in it and it won’t sink. The ideal rassolnik should be smooth, slightly salty, with a hint of sourness — so be careful with the proportions of the pickles and brine to all the other ingredients. Oh, and rassolnik is a great hangover cure. Take our word for it.
- 1 lb veal or lamb kidneys cut into bite size pieces, washed thoroughly and soaked in cold water for 3 to 4 hours
- 2 qts water (more or less depending on how thick you like your soup)
- ½ cup pearl barley rinsed and drained
- ½ tbsp butter
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 small root parsley grated
- 1 carrot grated
- 3 to 4 pickles grated, brine set aside
- 2 potatoes 5 to 6 ounces each, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley and dill for garnish
- Sour cream for topping
- Salt to taste
- Put kidneys into a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, cook pearl barley until half done (about 15 minutes if it was soaked overnight, about 30 if not). Rinse half-cooked barley with cold water.
- Put the barley into the pot with the kidneys, decrease heat to low, and add salt to taste. Cook, partially covered, for about 40 minutes.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, parsley root, and carrot for 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add pickles, cook for 5 to 10 more minutes.
- Transfer the vegetables from the skillet into the pot with the soup. Add potatoes, cover the pot, decrease heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes and barley are cooked through.
- Add bay leaf and pepper and cook 2 to 3 more minutes. You can also add a bit of the pickling brine to the soup — it gives the soup a nice tang.
Soaking the pearl barley for 8-10 hours (or overnight) before cooking will improve its taste and increase cooking speed.