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Friday, December 2, 2011

Olla de Carne - Costa Rican Beef Soup

This is an absolutely delicious Costa Rican staple that used to be served at every evening meal. Now it is served anytime. You will find it on the menu at many "sodas" (small diners) and "restaurantes". It is a stew-like soup with large chunks of beef and vegetables. The broth isn't as thick as the broth found in a typical American stew.

½ pound of yucca
½ pound sweet potatoes (camote)
½ pound of tiquisque* (optional)
½ pound carrots (zanahoria)
½ pound of potatoes (pappas)
½ pound of calabaza squash (ayote)
1 chayote
1 green plantain (platano verde)
2 ears of tender corn sliced in 1½” rings (elote)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (culantro)
1 cup diced celery (apio)
1 cup coarsely chopped onion (cebolla)
3 cloves minced garlic (ajo)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
2 cups of chicken or beef stock (or 2 bouillon cubes dissolved in water)
1 teaspoon of achiote paste (annatto)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds bone-in beef, cubed beef or rib pieces cut into about 2 inch pieces

Place the meat in a large pot with the onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, celery and salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover everything and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer until the meat is almost tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Cut all of the vegetables into large chunks, about 1” to 1½” thick. Put the vegetables and chicken or beef stock in another large stock pot in the order they take to cook. Reserve the potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash until later because they need less cooking time. Bring the vegetable to a boil over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Then add the remaining vegetables and lower the heat to a simmer, transfer the meat to the vegetable pot and continue to simmer until everything is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Olla de carne is usually served "family style" with a bowl of plain broth (or caldo) for everyone. The cooked meat and vegetables are placed on a large platter in the center of the table with a large bowl of white rice. Everyone adds a little rice to their broth and then tops it with some meat and their favorite vegetables.

* Tiquisque is commonly called Taro, Cocoyam or Ñampi. I'm not fond of this root vegetable, so I usually don't add it.

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