Today we celebrate the Discovery of Puerto Rico… or the day Christopher Columbus landed on the Island of Puerto Rico for the first time in 1493. Because if you ask the Taínos who already lived on the Island, they already knew Boriquén existed and they needed no discovery of any kind.
I wanted to commemorate this day with a very Puerto Rican dish – SANCOCHO. The name is not that pretty, but it tastes awesome. It’s a stew/soup of many root vegetables, or as we call them locally, viandas. It’s great for those rainy days in November… as we thankfully say goodbye to the hurricane season, which fortunately has left Puerto Rico unscathed this year.
I’ll be honest, when I make this dish, I’ve made it for 40 people at a time… so bear with me when I try to scale the measurements for something more in tune with a regular family of 4.
3 medium potatoes, can be russet, red skin, Yukon gold, cleaned and cubed 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in ¼ inch rounds 1 medium yautía blanca, peeled and cubed 1 medium yautía lila, peeled and cubed 1 small malanga (taro root), peeled and cubed 2 celery stalks, cleaned and sliced thin 1 small onion, diced 1 small bell pepper, diced 1 corn on the cob ¼ head of white cabbage 2 tomatoes, peeled and cut in small dice 2 tbs sofrito 1 tbs olive oil 1 vegetable bouillon cube 2 bay leaves ½ bunch cilantro (optional), chopped 1 tsp Herbamare seasoning (optional) 1 tbs Salt, divided 10-15 turns of the mill of Freshly Cracked Ground Pepper, divided Water Avocado slices, for garnish at the end
- In the largest stock pot you have, start by adding the olive oil, sofrito, onion, bell pepper, celery and bouillon cube. Smash the cube so that it melts in with the rest of the ingredients. Allow for the celery, onions and peppers to soften. Add the tomatoes and let those juices mix together. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- Add the viandas – potatoes, carrots, yautías, , malanga – and the cabbage. Mix well with the ingredients already on the pot. Add water until covering 1 inch over the contents of the pot. Add the bay leaves, the chopped cilantro leaves, the Herbamare seasoning, some additional salt and pepper. Taste to check the water is well seasoned. Cover. Let it come to a boil and simmer at medium heat for about 30-40 minutes.
- Check the pot every so often and move the sancocho around, to avoid the bottom from scorching. When you reach the 20 minute mark, add the pieces of corn on the cob. Cover again and let it boil for the last 10 – 20 minutes. Make sure the root vegetables are fork tender.
- Turn off the stove and let the sancocho finish cooking with the residual heat from the pot and stove. Allow it to rest and mellow for about 20 minutes. The soup will maintain hot for about 1 hour, no problem.
- When you’re ready to eat, garnish on top with slices of avocado… and if you want, you can drizzle a squirt of lime juice too.
This is a stew perfect for cold and rain days. This is what we almost always eat after a few days of fasting at a Yoga Retreat. It’s full of vitamins and nutrition and will even “revive the dead”. There is a lot of ingredients, but it’s all chop and dump… not that difficult.
You can eat it with plain whole-grain rice…