All great recipes begin with the words, “my grandmother used to cook…”. This is especially true in the case of a soup called Sancocho. I remember my grandmother waking up very early on a Saturday morning to make a large stockpot of this soup. It would feed the entire family for days. Cooked in a rich beef stock infused with an array of starchy vegetables, Sancocho is a great vehicle for your fall and winter’s harvest. Bits of beef chuck help drive the hearty effect and small cut-up cobs of sweet corn yields good balance. While the most common ingredients in sancocho are yucca, potato, pumpkin, sweet corn, plantains, beef chuck, beef stock and sofrito for a cooking base, the design of this dish makes it particularly advantageous for other vegetables that are in season, and also easy to switch to a broth that is not animal based.
Make space in your refrigerator because a large stockpot will nourish you for days. When you’re ready to eat, take out of the fridge and let sit for 30 minutes before heating on low temperature, then serve when hot. As the days go by, the soup only gets thicker and more flavorful as the starches of the vegetables disintegrate into the broth.
A piping hot bowl of Sancocho is known to soothe and comfort. As soon as you notice the onset of a cold (i.e. that first itch in your throat, that first sniffle, or any hint of muscle soreness), I encourage you to get to the supermarket or nearest farmers market and gather up ingredients for this deliciously healthy elixir of sorts. You will feel strong again. Serve with a small bowl of rice, or better yet, break a piece of bread, slather on soft butter and bite into it. Mmm! Slurp the hot broth and bite into small chunks of tender beef so richly flavored of sofrito. Remove a small piece of corn on the cob and allow to cool off before gnawing and sucking the juices it has absorbed. When you’ve finished eating, get back in your bed and get some rest. Brooklyn, EAT your heart out!
- healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil, about 2 – 3 tablespoons
- 1 medium sized onion, minced
- 3 – 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- 1 pound of beef chuck, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 large yucca (cassava), cut into 1 – 2 inch wheels
- 1 large sweet potato, chopped
- 2 green plantains, cut into one inch wheels
- 2 – 3 large carrots, chopped
- 1/2 or medium sized pumpkin, chopped
- 3 ears of corn, cut into 1 – 2 inch wheels
- 12 cups of beef stock (homemade or store-bought), or 6 beef bouillons and 12 cups of water
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of red wine (optional)
- 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of sea salt, to taste
Note: I have deviated from my grandmother’s sancocho recipe (as well as any other traditional sancocho recipe). You can use store-bought sofrito such as Goya. However, I like the fresh, non-MSG taste of homemade sofrito. For this sofrito, I left out tomatoes and spices such as cumin, adobo, and sazon. Also, I used whole cilantro leaves as a garnish in lieu of adding it to the sofrito.
In a large stockpot, sauté the sofrito (i.e. minced onions, garlic, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper) in olive oil. Add a dash of salt to draw out moisture and allow to caramelize. Allow the sofrito to sizzle on medium low heat until translucent and caramelized, about 10 minutes or so. Then move all the sofrito in the stockpot to one side and add the beef chuck. Let beef brown on all sides, about 2 – 3 minutes. If using wine, now is the time to add it. Stir and reduce by half. If not using wine, mix beef with sofrito, then add all chopped vegetables except for the corn on the cob. Add salt, stir all contents, cover pot and let steam on medium low heat for 5 minutes or so. This will allow the beef and veggies to be infused by the sofrito. Raise heat to medium high and add beef stock. Once stock starts to boil, lower heat immediately to medium and let the soup start to cook for about an hour. Do not boil, keep at a nice simmer. Skim off any foam that floats to the surface. Taste soup and add salt or pepper as needed. Add up to 2 more cups of water as stock evaporates, adjusting taste with salt and pepper seasoning if necessary. Let cook for another hour on medium low heat. When the yucca (cassava) and plantains are soft, the soup is ready. Add corn on the cob pieces and let the hot broth cook the corn for about 5 – 10 minutes. Turn off heat, let soup sit for 10 minutes. Give it a good stir and serve with a small bowl of rice or bread and butter. Garnish soup with whole cilantro leaves. Enjoy!