Having moved to Riga, Latvia over the summer to study Russian, one of my best discoveries here has been the immensely popular Slavic drink "kvass." Sure, I had tried it before in the US once, when I had been to Bethlehem on the East Coast to visit a friend of mine there, but around here in Riga it is everywhere - you can get it in the wonderful cafeterias like Lido, in normal stores, in restaurants across the city. It's easy to see why Kvass is so appealing - it is wonderfully refreshing, it has deep and profound almost caramel like flavors, a good balance of sweetness that prevents it from becoming sickly sweet like many carbonated beverages - and it isn't carbonated on that note, something I much enjoy.
Not only do occasionally Russians (and Ukrainians and I am sure other people in Eastern Europe) enjoy drinking kvass, but they also cook with it, like Okroshka - sometimes made with milk or kifir, but also with kvass. So it inspired me for my first try at cooking something with kvass, a simple stew with leeks, garlic, a bit of orange to provide for some fruity notes, chicken, and marinated beets. It's simple certainly, but I quite enjoyed the mixture of flavors and the pleasant mix of sweetness with the notes of garlic and the savory freshness of the leeks, driving out the vague bitterness from the marinated beets and producing a hearty, pretty, and satisfying stew. It is very easy to make, and without doubt I would make it more often myself save for the fact that with such an abundance of frozen dumplings here, you have absolutely no need to make anything else for home cooking!
This recipe is entirely my own.
- 2 leeks, diced and cleaned
- 1 1/2 liter bottle kvass
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 pound chicken
- 1 pound jar marinated beets
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 cup, water
- 1 orange, juice of
- In a large casserole dish, melt the butter over high heat. Add in the leeks and sauté until they soften, and then add in the garlic. Sauté for several minutes.
- Cut the orange in half and squeeze into the juice but not the seeds. Then add in the chicken, cut up into cubes. Sauté, moving everything around vigorously, until the chicken has some color and the vegetables have reduced in mass.
- Add in the kvass, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes while it reduces.
- Add in the marinated beets, stir to combine. Fill up the jar with water to both get all beet juice out, and to measure out the water for the stew. Cook for a few more minutes to allow it to reduce more and for the flavors to mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.