A pan-Caribbean rustic soup with dozens of varieties that vary by country, sancocho provides a simple and satisfying comfort meal of chicken and root vegetables.
The name sancocho derives from the Spanish verb sancochar (“to parboil”) and threads through the Caribbean states and Latin America via settlement from the Canary Islands. It is traditionally a simple stew of common meat and starchy vegetables with each country having a unique national take on the dish.
With Spanish origins, the base of the stew is usually a sofrito of onion, garlic and tomato but the Puerto Rican version uses a similar recaíto of onion, garlic and bell pepper, reflecting more of its New World culinary heritage. Also typical in a Puerto Rican recipe are corn on the cob, carrots, potatoes and plantains. Smoked ham or pig’s feet are often included, and the stew can also be served over rice.
Plantains or guineos are of the same genus (Musa) as bananas, and botanically they are not distinct species, yet each cultivar has very distinct qualities. Whereas common “dessert” bananas contain more sugar and are often consumed raw, plantains have less sugar and more starch and are usually cooked. They almost melt away during cooking, and their very faint banana-like flavor works with the corn and carrots to season this stew with a mild sweetness without added sugar.
A small amount of rice is used as a thickening agent but may be omitted. Spices are a bare minimum in this version but additions of ginger, thyme, annatto or oregano would not be out of place. Neither would a shot of deep red wine or rum.
If desired, serve this stew with cooked rice, pan-fried plantain slices and hot sauce.
4 chicken thighs
½ lb red potatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 corn cob
4 c chicken stock
¼ c rice
2 green onions
1 Finely dice the yellow onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook in oil over medium-high heat until soft, about 5-10 min.
2 Add stock, chicken and chopped cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 min.
3 Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Roughly chop the potatoes, carrot, whole corn and plantain and add along with the rice and 2 c water. Simmer covered for 25 min.
4 Shred the meat from the chicken thighs and add back to the pot. Season to taste.
Garnish with chopped green onion and fresh limes.