Soups are one of my favorite dishes. The Apio Soup is at the top of the list of course, but I generally like any type of soup. Growing up, it was a given that I would have at least one cup of soup before lunch every time I went to my paternal grandparents’ house after school. They always had apio soup, auyama soup, and I would even eat the spinach soup. Looking back I realize it was their way of feeding us our daily serving of veggies without dealing with us ‘picky-eaters’. However, when visiting my maternal grandparents, the tradition was to eat the soup as a main dish. This is because they would prepare sancochos or hervidos, either made from chicken base or fish base. My maternal family lives on the coast, so fish is the most common dish on the table. It was also a trick to get me to eat fish. And I would; I would eat all the veggies and all the fish, as long as it was in the soup.
All soups are not created equally, and they do not serve the same purpose. The soups I ate at my paternal grandparents’ house in the city were appetizers, a small serving before the main dish for lunch. The soups I ate at my maternal grandparent’s house had been cooked in two large pots, or maybe even three, to feed everyone in the family as a main dish, accompanied by some arepas, casabe, and avocado.
The word sancocho comes from the Latin sub-coctum, wich means to cook at a low heat. That is precisely what sancocho is, and even though it is also called hervido, which means boiled, in order to make sancocho, you must never let the water actually come to a boil. People also call sancocho the actual family gathering where they meet to enjoy this delicious dish.
Soups (sopas) are basic broths with small pieces of solid foods like vegetables, chicken, beef, sometimes rice, pasta or even dough balls, some even have milk or eggs. Some of these soups end up being creams (cremas) if those ingredients are all blended together. Stews (sancocho o hervido), on the other hand, are hearty enough to be the main dish, with big pieces of vegetables and roots, corn and even plantains. Sancochos and/or hervidos can be made with chicken, beef, fish or even pork based broths, and some people even make ‘cruzado’ (mixed/crossed) when they make it from two or even three different base broths. Stews can also be made into creams when blended together.
To me, there is nothing like a good cup of soup, cream, or stew when you have the flu.
What you need:
– 1 Whole Chicken
– 1 Lemon (to clean the chicken)
– 2 Small Onions
– 2 Large Leeks
– 2 Bell Peppers
– 2 Cilantro Stems
– 1 Lb. Yuca
– 1 Lb. Apio
– 1 Lb. Ocumo (Sold as Malanga in the US)
– 1 Lb. Auyama (Sold as “calabaza” – Cucurbita moschata or ayote or zapallo, is a type of pumpkin squash)
– 1 Lb. Batata Blanca Alargada (Sold as Boniato or White Sweet Potato)
– 3 Large Ears of Corn
– 8 Garlic Cloves
– 2 Small Stems of Spearmint
– 2 Tablespoons Salt
– 1 Teaspoon Pepper
1. First cut the chicken, or if you want to make your life easier, buy the pieces separately (breasts and drums, bones included). Wash the chicken pieces by using two halves of the lemon to scrub it and then rinse it and damp dry with paper towels.
2. Place the chicken in a large enough pot and fill with water, about half the pot, enough to cover the chicken. Add the ears of corn as well; cut them in thirds or fourths. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the leeks, bell peppers and the onions. You can wash these and then cut in large pieces, since they will be removed later.
4. Cook for about one hour to an hour and a half or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add the cilantro right around half way through cooking the chicken. Add more water as necessary.
5. You will notice that a layer of foam will start to form on the top as you cook. You should keep an eye on the pot and remove the foam as it starts to collect on the top.
6. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool for a bit. In the meantime strain the broth, so that you remove all the pieces of onion, leek, bell peppers and cilantro. Be sure to keep the broth, since we will use it to cook the rest of the ingredients.
7. Use however much broth you have, hopefully around 11 Cups. Wash, cut and peel (if necessary) the rest of the ingredients in large pieces (Yuca, Apio, Boniato, Malanga, Calabaza, etc.), and add them to the pot with the broth. Also add the garlic, the salt and the pepper.
8. Boil on high for about 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are ready. In the meantime you can shred the chicken using a fork to remove the meat from the bones and set aside the meat to add it to the soup later on. You can leave some bigger pieces of chicken as well.
9. When the vegetables are almost done, you can add the chicken, the spearmint and a little bit more cilantro.
10. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove the cilantro and spearmint.
11. Serve hot with casabe or a plain arepa. It is also a custom to add a couple of pieces of avocado.
12. You can also take out the chicken and corn from the soup, and blend the soup into a cream, and then add back the chicken and the corn, for a delicious cream version of this soup.
Note: When cutting the Malanga, you should wear gloves because it might sting if you get it on your skin or eyes.
Optional: Some people add other types of vegetables and ingredients in the soups like potatoes, carrots, zucchini, yam, bollos, hallaquitas, plantains, etc.