Sancocho is a nourishing stew popular throughout the Latin World, especially in the Caribbean and northern South America. It originated in Spain's Canary Islands where is is a simple and spicy fish and potato stew. Most New World versions contain a variety of root vegetables, meats and chicken.

Sancocho is special occasion food, and families usually make large batches. Simmered slowly, the vegetables breakdown somewhat to thicken the stew.

6 to 8 servings

Oil -- 3 tablespoons
Onion, chopped -- 1
Garlic, minced -- 3 to 4 cloves
Tomatoes, chopped -- 2 cups
Stock or water -- 2 quarts
Meat, cubed (see variations below) -- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
Root vegetables, peeled and cubed (see variations) -- 2 pounds
Pumpkin (calabaza), peeled and cubed -- 1/2 pound
Green plantain, peeled and cubed -- 1
Corn kernels -- 1 cup
Oregano -- 2 teaspoons
Salt and pepper -- to taste
Cilantro, chopped -- 1 bunch
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium flame. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 more minutes to cook them down somewhat.
Add stock or water and root vegetables and meat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the root vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add more stock or water if necessary.
Finally add the pumpkin, plantain, corn, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the vegetables have begun to break down a bit.
Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in the cilantro. Serve hot with rice.
Meats: sancocho is best made with a variety of meats. Try different cuts and types of beef, pork, pork ribs, pork sausages, ham, goat and chicken. Marinate the meat first in sour orange juice (naranja agria) or a mix of orange and lime juices if you like. The meats can also be browned in the hot oil first before you sauté the onion and garlic.
Root Vegetables: use a variety. Potatoes, yuca (cassava), yautía (malanga), sweet potatoes, ñame (true yam).
Sancocho de Siete Carnes (Dominican Republic): a classic Dominican version for truly special occasions. Use seven types of meat, which represent the seven Canary Islands where the stew originated.
Sancocho de Gallina: use chicken only.
Use sofrito in place of the chopped onion and garlic.
Sauté some minced habanero peppers with the onions and garlic to add a bit of spice.
Substitute butternut or other firm winter squashes for calabaza.
Use corn cobs cut into small pieces instead of corn kernels.

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