After Russia sold Alaska to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, waves of Russian immigrants fleeing religious persecution moved to the United States. These groups generally settled in coastal cities, including Brooklyn (New York City) on the East coast, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, on the West coast.
Many of the city dwellers took jobs in factories, often as garment workers. Those who preferred rural living benefited from the Homestead Act and set up farms across the West, while still others worked in mills and mines in the Midwest. Russians contributed their diverse cultural traditions and devout faith (for some Judaism and for others Russian Orthodox) to the places they settled. Unlike immigrants from other countries, few returned to Russia—America had become their homeland.
Emigration was restricted during the Soviet era, however, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, immigration to the U.S. increased considerably. Some Ukrainian Americans, Belarusian Americans, Rusyn Americans along with Jewish Americans, German Americans from the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, identify themselves as Russian Americans. According to the Institute of Modern Russia’s 2011 report, the Russian American population was estimated to be 3.13 million.
In 2007 Russian was the primary spoken language in 851,174 homes, according to the U.S. Census. The New York City metropolitan area has historically been the primary place of settlement for Russian immigrants legally admitted into the United States. Brighton Beach, Brooklyn continues to be the most important demographic and cultural center for Russian Americans. However, as Russian Americans have climbed in socioeconomic status, they have moved toward more affluent parts of the New York metropolitan area, notably Bergen County, New Jersey.
Russian cuisine tends toward the starchy side, with plenty of pickling. Grains are a major crop, with rye, buckwheat, wheat and barley commonly used in cooking, especially for bread. Root vegetables like beetroot, potatoes, and onions are also popular ingredients along with mushrooms, sour cream, cabbage, and the ricotta-like “farmers’ cheese”. Classic Russian dishes include Beef Stroganoff, chicken Kiev, beetroot broth, blini, and cheese dumplings.
They prepare a variety of soups, which are almost always served with sour cream. Most famous is borscht, made from beets, cabbage, and meat. In the summer, borscht is served cold. Shchi, also made with cabbage, includes turnips, carrots, onions, and beef. Fish soups are popular, such as solianka, and include onion, tomato, cucumber, lemon, butter, and sometimes beef. Many soups also include potatoes or dumplings. Traditional dark Russian bread is made from rye and Russian meals are accompanied by vodka.
Beef Stroganov or Stroganoff (Russian spelling: бефстроганов befstróganov) is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana (sour cream). Following its origin in mid-19th-century Russia, the dish has become popular around the world, with considerable variation from the original recipe.
Elena Molokhovets’s classic Russian cookbook, A Gift to Young Housewives, gives the first known recipe for Govjadina po-strogonovski, s gorchitseju, “Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard”, in its 1871 edition. The recipe involves lightly floured beef cubes (not strips) sautéed, sauced with prepared mustard and broth, and finished with a small amount of sour cream: no onions, no mushrooms, and no alcohol. Another recipe, this one from 1909, adds onions and tomato sauce and serves it with crisp potatoes, which are considered the traditional side dish for beef Stroganoff in Russia. The version given in the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique includes beef strips, and onions, with either mustard or tomato paste as an option.
After the fall of Tsarist Russia, the recipe was popularly served in the hotels and restaurants of China before the start of World War II. Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as US servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, brought several variants of the dish to the United States, which may account for its popularity during the 1950s.
The version often prepared in the United States consists of strips of beef filet with a mushroom, onion, and sour cream sauce served over noodles. In the UK and Australia, a recipe very similar to that commonly found in the United States is popular, but it is served over rice.
Make a Russian inspired dinner at home.
Serves 4 (or servings for 2 in parenthesis)
1 (1/2) pound filet mignon or mignon tips (cut into 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide)
3 ( 1 1/2) tablespoons butter
1 ( 1/2) sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 ( 1/4) cup beef broth
1 (1/2) tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 ( 2 T) cup heavy cream
1/2 ( 1/4) cup sour cream
2 ( 1 ) teaspoons flour
2 (1) tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 (1) tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly grounded black pepper
8 ( 4) ounces medium egg noodles, cooked
Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat and sear meat on all sides, for about a minute. Work in small batches so the meat does not give off any liquid. Remove to a plate.
Add the butter and onions and saute until tender.
Blend broth, flour, mustard, heavy cream, and sour cream together. Lower heat, add the liquid mixture, and simmer, without boiling until sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Return meat to the sauce and heat, without boiling until meat is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in dill and parsley and spoon over noodles.
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
2 pounds parsnips
1 pound carrots
2 large shallots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the carrots, and parsnips into 2-inch sticks. Cut the shallots into 1/2 inch pieces
Place the cut vegetables on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, tossing occasionally until the parsnips and carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot.
I recently roasted root vegetables for dinner and had extra cooked spinach on hand, so rather than reheat the vegetables, I came up with a new way to serve them. The two new dishes complimented pan seared beef tenderloin steaks very well.
Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes
2 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup leftover garlic sautéed spinach
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Panko bread crumbs
Cut off a thin slice from the tops of the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and center flesh with a small serrated spoon. Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with a little salt and turn them over on a paper towel to drain for 30 minutes.
Divide the spinach in half and fill the center of the tomatoes. Top the spinach with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a small baking dish and place the filled tomatoes in the dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Roasted Root Vegetable Puree
2 cups leftover roasted root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Place the roasted vegetables in the processor. Pulse until completely pureed. Add the cream to make a smooth mixture. Place the pureed vegetables in a microwave safe bowl, top with the butter and heat on high for several minutes until the vegetables are hot. Sprinkle on the chives and serve.
Filet Mignon with Cabernet Sauce
2- 6 oz. filet mignon steaks, about 1-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme
1 cup Cabernet wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat a skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle the steaks with salt & pepper. Cook filets until desired doneness,4- 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) for medium-rare.
Remove the steaks to serving plates
Add shallots, cook 1 min, add wine and herbs. Boil for several minutes until reduced. Stir in butter. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve.
2 pounds mushrooms (button/cremini), roughly chopped
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts homemade or store-bought beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning blend, recipe below
3 tablespoons butter
5-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Homemade Croutons, recipe below
Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add in the minced garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the chopped mushrooms and the thyme Cook until the mushrooms release some of the water content, stirring frequently about 10 minutes.
Next, add the beef broth, all-purpose seasoning blend, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cook this mixture for an additional 15 minutes then reduce the heat to low. Remove the thyme sprigs. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat over low. Serve with croutons.
All-Purpose No-Salt Seasoning Mix
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/4 teaspoons dried savory
1 1/4 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix garlic powder, basil, parsley, savory, thyme, mace, onion powder, black pepper, sage, and cayenne pepper in a bowl; store in a sealed jar.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
6 slices day-old bread, cubed
In an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan, combine the butter, oil, and seasonings. Heat in a 300° F oven until butter is melted. Remove from the oven; stir to combine.
3 cups finely diced leftover baked ham
2 hard-boiled eggs finely chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream and Dijon in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined. Cover and chill until serving time.
Serve on a salad plate over shredded lettuce or on a sandwich made with pumpernickel bread.