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Sancocho: the most impressive meat stew ever

One of my MBA class friends here in Mexico City is married to a woman from the Dominican Republic. For Rodolfo’s birthday last year, his wife made an amazing Dominican creation known as Sancocho de las Siete Carnes. John and I were invited to the Gran Sancochada (as apparently one calls the event at which one stuffs oneself with sancocho), which of course we could not miss!

Now the recipe I linked to above states “Time: 90 minutes”. That sounds extremely optimistic to me, as I believe Rodolfo’s wife Elizabeth spent *at least* all day making this dish, and probably plenty of additional time scrounging up all of the ingredients! To start with, you have seven meats. These typically include beef, chicken, chorizo, pork, perhaps some goat, maybe bacon or cured beef (cecina), you get the idea. Rodolfo was quick to point out in his invitation that although the specifics of the siete carnes are left a bit vague in advance (depending upon what’s available), “…no es carne de gato, ni de rata, ni nada por el estilo.” [translation: It's not cat, nor rat, anything along those lines.] :)

In addition to the meat, sancocho requires a variety of  Dominican-y vegetables like “la yuca, yautía, ahuyama, y todas esas cosas dominicanas que no entiendo lo que son,” in Rodolfo’s words. [translation: yuca or cassava, yautia or malanga which is similar to taro, ahuyama or cucurbita maxima which is a type of squash, and all those Dominican things that I don't understand what they are.] I also recall ñame [yams], platanos [plantains], corn cobs cut into thirds, and other more familiar vegetables and spices.

The number of ingredients is impressive, but I have to admit what most impressed me about Elizabeth’s cooking [before I actually tried the dish] was the pot she was using. This thing took up about 4 burners on their gas stovetop. It was MASSIVE. And bubbling away inside it was vastly more sancocho than our group of 20-something guests could possibly eat. :) I remember thinking to myself, “This woman is not screwing around in the kitchen,” and feeling slightly ashamed of the wee, loser pots we had hiding in our cupboards back home.

Chef extraordinaire Elizabeth and birthday boy Rodolfo pose with their sancocho success story, inside a pot big enough to bathe a medium-sized dog. Luckily, I am certain that activity has not happened in this particular pot. ;)

The sancocho was served with various accoutrements like avocado slices, rice, hot sauce, etc., and plenty of alcohol. It was fantastic– definitely as meat-diverse as promised, with amazing flavor from all those ingredients having simmering together for a few hours. I had at least two helpings, quickly making a mess of myself trying to eat the corn off the cob and ripping some of the meat off bones. Then I spent the rest of the evening wondering things like,

  • What will they do with the rest of the sancocho?
  • They cannot possibly have enough tupperware containers to store all of that, nor space in their fridge… right?
  • Maybe they have an extra “sancocho fridge” hiding in a back room, just like people in the Midwest have an extra “meat fridge” in the garage?
  • Maybe Rodolfo brings the extra sancocho into work and sells it?
  • What would he charge?
  • Why didn’t we bring 18 tupperware containers along with us?”
  • Is my purse waterproof?
  • Why didn’t I bring a larger, waterproof purse?

This is the point in any food-related post where I might claim, “This was so good I will definitely make this at home!”  And the sancocho was indeed good enough to almost inspire me to that point– it almost feels like it should be a traditional Midwestern dish with all that meat hanging out along with numerous ears of corn!! But given my feelings of pot inadequacy and skepticism that I could identify all those Dominican veggies without a field guide, I think I will just wait for the next Gran Sancochada. ;)

Here I am, trying to pretend that a) I am not intimidated by the size of the sancocho pot, and b) I am ready to just rip into a massive hunk of meat right now.

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9 Comments on “Sancocho: the most impressive meat stew ever”

  1. #1 heidileon
    on Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:20 am

    y yo que nunca he probado el sancocho (aunque, frankly, I doubt I would try it since I don’t enjoy eating meat).

    so, at the end, did they give you an itacate (dogie bag)?

    ps: loving your new banner girl. So colorful. So Mexican! ;-)

  2. #2 Julie
    on Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    jaja siii, si no te gusta carne, me imagino que sancocho no sea tu favorito ;) I think we decided it was for the best not to enable ourselves to keep stuffing our faces with seven-meat stew for the next 5 days at home! But now I have learned the word for doggie bag- gracias!!

  3. #3 Theresa in Mérida
    on Aug 18th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    They make sancocho in Panamá too. That’s where I had it.
    I miss all those those wonderful things like ñame, malanga and yuca. They are used in Cuban food too! My mom used to go to Casa Lucas in San Francisco, (California not the grocery store chain here in México) and buy them frozen already peeled and cut up.

    Platanos machos here in Yucatán are almost always mature, so not so good for stews. They probably think I am a dumb gringa when I buy green ones instead of the ripe ones.

    Also boniato is the name for sweet potatoes,here they call them camote. ñame is not the same thing you would find in the grocery store if you asked for yams. They are a different color altogether.

    Yucatecans have dish similar to sancocho called a Pulchero de tres carnes. It is very good too, but you need a big pot even if you just put in one of everything.

    regards,
    Theresa

  4. #4 mjesf
    on Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    When are you going to make it for your Mom – and tell the story about it?

  5. #5 Julie
    on Aug 19th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Theresa– I looked up the recipe for that Yucatecan dish– it looks equally tasty!
    mjesf– good question… perhaps we can make a version back in Nebraska made of 7 Omaha Steaks?? ;)

  6. #6 Geeshgirl
    on Sep 5th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Sancocho is not a traditional dish in Mexico (I wish it was!). Better tags would be “Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Panama”. I will definitely look up the Yucatecan dish!!!

  7. #7 Julie
    on Sep 5th, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Geeshgirl, Thanks for the note; actually this post is already tagged as “Dominican Republic, sancocho”, but I categorized it under “Food of Mexico” for lack of a better alternative & because that’s where I ate it! But as I mention in the 2nd sentence, the dish I had was Dominican.

  8. #8 Spencer
    on Sep 16th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I had Sancocho in the Dominican Republic and it was absolutely awesome!

  9. #9 Aunt Clara
    on Dec 29th, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    I loved your post about Sancocho, and thanks for the link to my site. I want to clarify that the time in the recipe is not for that kind of baby bathtub-size sancocho, I can definitely see that your friend spent more than 90 minutes on that. My hat’s off to her for undertaking such thing.

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