Thursday, November 24, 2011

RECIPE - Calf's Foot Soup (Caldo de Mocotó)

This traditional Brazilian recipe for a thick soup made with calf's foot (mocotó) is one of those soups that nourishes, fills and warms up whoever eats it. It's a perfect winter soup - for those days when the weather is damp and raw and it seems impossible to get warm. So what's it doing coming from Brazil, where one's weather-related problem is far more likely to be how to cool off than how to warm up?

Well, this dish is part of Brazil's Portuguese heritage and as anyone who's visited Portugal in the winter months can attest, that country, particularly in the mountainous interior, can be bitterly cold. The Portuguese developed a taste for calf's foot soup and even after being transplanted to the tropics of Brazil, Portuguese colonists continued to prepare it and enjoy calf's foot soup, tropical heat notwithstanding.

In Brazil, this soup is considered to be a restorative pick-me-up, and Brazilians are accustomed to eating it at the very end of a night out to ward off a hangover, or first thing in the morning to deal with the ills of having over-indulged or simply to prime the pump for the day's activities ahead.

This YouTube video (in Portuguese only) deomnstrates how caldo de mocotó is made and enjoyed. Even if you don't understand the audio, it's quite easy to figure out what's happening in the video. The recipe below isn't exactly the same as the one used in the video, but it's very typical. Like many traditional dishes, caldo de mocotó has as many recipes as there are cooks who can make it - everyone has their own tricks and secret ingredients. And as anyone can tell you, no one knows how to make caldo de mocotó better than their own mother.

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RECIPE - Calf's Foot Soup (Caldo de Mocotó)

1 calf's foot (have your butcher cut it into rounds about 2-3 inches thick)
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
6 sups (1500 ml) water
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 small chili pepper, jalapeno or similar, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig cilantro, whole
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp green onion, green parts only, finely chopped
salt to taste
one medium boiling potato, peeled and cubed (optional)
one large carrot, peeled and sliced (optional)
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In a large bowl, soak the rounds of calf's foot for at least thirty minutes. Drain, then wash the rounds carefully and thoroughly with a stiff vegetable brush. Reserve.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil then add the rounds of calf's foot. Fry for a short time, then add the water the cloves and the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a very slow boil. Skim off the scum as it rises to the surface and continue to do so until no more scum is produced.

Next add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, chili pepper and cilantro sprig. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for two hours, adding water from time to time to replace the quantity that evaporates. After two hours, remove one round of calf's foot, let cool for a few minutes and then verify that it is completely tender, soft and falling off the bone. If so, remove the soup from the heat, if not, cook a bit longer and test again. Once the calf's foot is cooked, remove from heat, discard the cloves, the cilantro and bay leaf and let cool completely.

Once the soup is cool, remove the calf's foot rounds and pull the meat off the bones. Discard the bones, and chop the meat roughly, then return it to the soup. Return the soup to the stove, add the optional potato and carrot if desired, bring to a simmer and cook for thirty more minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt.

Serve hot.

3 comments:

  1. Looks great James, thanks for this. Now I've got to find the courage required to buy a calf's foot!!

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