Sunday, February 14, 2010

Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup)

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My husband has a habit of giving me culinary challenges, especially when we're dining out in a restaurant. We don't dine out very often but when we do, it never fails. We'll get our order and as he's eating, he'll ask me, "Honey, you could make this, right?" We then spend the rest of the dinner talking about the food, critiquing our meal, talking through how it was prepared, the ingredients used and how we could recreate it at home.

One restaurant we like to go for our Mexican cuisine fix is Nuevo Leon, located in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Our order is usually the same consisting of steak tacos for me and Caldo de Res, a Mexican Beef Soup, for the hubs. Every single time we go, he asks me the same thing.... "When are you ever going to make this at home?" I usually reply, "I don't know... soon. Sometime soon." He loves this soup so much that he's very specific when he orders it at the restaurant. Along with this steamy, hearty soup, he'll add an order of cilantro rice with a side of limes. Watching him eat this at the restaurant is like watching a little boy playing with his new toys on Christmas morning!

Well, after umpteen visits to Nuevo Leon and providing him the same response time and time again, I've finally made his beloved Caldo de Res soup. The soup's broth is rich with flavor from bone-in beef shanks that have boiled for hours until tender. Mixed in are chunks of potato, carrots, cabbage wedges, and mini corn on the cobs. The addition of fresh cilantro brightens the flavors and compliments the cilantro rice served along side of it. Lastly, freshly squeezed lime juice gives the soup a nice tang that brings it all together. So this dish is dedicated to my love and here's to bringing that happiness in his eyes and in his belly on Valentine's Day.

Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup)
recipe adapted from AllRecipes

Soup:
2 pounds beef shank, with bone
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
4 cups water
2 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 potato, quartered
2 ears corn, husked and cut into thirds
1 medium head cabbage, cored & cut into wedges
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly minced cilantro

Garnishes (optional);
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, cut into wedges


Cut the meat from the beef bones into about 1/2 inch pieces, leaving some on the bones.

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the oil, tilting the pan to coat the bottom. Add the meat and bones, and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until thoroughly browned.

Add 1 onion, and cook until onion is also lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and broth. The liquid should cover the bones by 1/2 inch. If not, add enough water to compensate. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour with the lid on loosely. If meat is not tender, continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so.

Pour in the water, and return to a simmer. Add the carrot and 1/4 cup cilantro, and cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the potato, and corn. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Push the cabbage wedges into the soup, add the lime juice and cilantro and cook for about 10 more minutes.

Ladle soup into large bowls, including meat vegetables and bones. Garnish with jalapenos, minced onion, and additional cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over all and serve.

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