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Vrasto

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Across Greece and especially around the city of Thessaloniki, one will find these shops that are open all night, serving up hot bowls of soup, be it summer or winter.

These joints are called “Patzatzidika”, serving up the main soup known as “Patsa”. A Patsa is a soup that contains boiled tripe, pigs feet and heavy on the garlic and vinegar. Patsa is also known for warding off hangovers. One sees many Greeks patronizing a Patzatzidiko late at night, just before returning home.

I don’t do Patsa. I tried my mom’s once again this year and it still was not appealing at all to me. I do however, adore her Vrasto which also appears on many menus at Patzatzidika.

Today, we’re going to enjoy Vrasto. It’s a chunky Greek soup and it gets it’s name (Vrasto), which means boiled. This soup is straightforward, easy to make with ingredients available to just about anyone.Once again I save lots of time by using my trusty pressure cooker. I know there are some “fraidy-cats” ou there who are timid at the mention of pressure cookers but again I insist, get one added to your roster of kitchen utensils.

A pressure cooker is very safe and easy to use: place contents into the pot, close lid and secure. If the lid has not been closed properly, there will be no seal (safe). Conversely, when a seal is formed, it’s impossible to open the pressure cooker due to the amount of pressure formed. Finally, there’s a valve that allows you to release the pressure and when the whistle stops blowing, your pressure cooker will open safely.

Ask Santa for a pressure cooker.

Vrasto is a chunky soup of onions, carrots, potatoes and celery simmered in a beef/veal broth and brought together by a wonderful and very Greek Avgolemono Sauce. I’m a big fan of soups that eat like a meal and a Vrasto hits that spot.

Vrasto

1 kg. of veal shoulder
enough water to cover the meat
1/4 cup of olive oil
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 large potato, grated

4 potatoes, rough chop
6 small onions, halved
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

Avgolemono
2 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. of flour

1/4 cup water

       •      Rinse your veal shoulder and place in the pressure cooker. Fill up with enough water to just cover the meat. Secure the lid on your pressure cooker and turn the heat to high. As soon as your pressure cooker has formed it’s seal and starts to whistle, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Release the pressure before opening the cooker.

       •      Remove the meat and reserve on a plate. Skim the fat from the broth and and pass through a strainer.

       •      In another large pot, add the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots and celery and saute on low heat until the onions have become soft and translucent (about 15 minutes). Grate the 5th potato and stir so that it doesn’t stick or burn (add some water if too dry).

       •      Add the stock (about 10 cups) and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes. Add the meat into the soup to warm through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and take off the heat.

       •      Make your Avgolemono by adding the eggs to a large bowl and beat them with a whisk. Now add the lemon juice and flour, the water and whisk to incorporate. Take a ladle of your soup and add it to your Avgolemono while whisking.

       •      Now slowly pour your Avgolemono into the pot of soup while gently stirring it. Serve the soup hot with each portion having chunky vegetables, a piece of meat and some crusty bread at the side.