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Reader Lisa Contreras adds:
"I never expected to see our favorite dish--Sancocho--featured in this eagerly anticipated newsletter. We not only eat this at New Year's but also at any other time when we want to make our Dominican family and/or guests feel special. Your recipe is very close to the one we have used for years but we also add diced tomatoes and achiote (annato) for color and adobo (with pleny of garlic) for a wonderful and unique flavor."


(Dominican Republic)

Boy, is this soup good--piquant, savory, intensely meaty, and bursting with color and flavor. Sandra Takaki sent me the recipe, and here's what she says about it: "Sancocho is one of those comfort foods that we eat especially around Christmas. The night to eat it (or morning, as you see fit) is New Years, after a night of celebrating. One can eat a bowl right before going to sleep, and then eat the leftovers the next day. It is, as we say, levanta muertos--or ‘raises the dead.’ The truth behind sancocho is that it is made, like many soups, with whatever you have at hand. This is one version of it, but there are many versions. Normally I have chicken in my house, so I just make it with chicken, and if I have chorizo I will put some in. If I have potatoes, maybe I will put them in as well. In the Dominican Republic the best sancocho is the Sancocho de 7 carnes (7-meat Sancocho) which is really meat from 4 different animals (one is always goat), but sausages are counted as different meats. ...So enjoy, and Buen Provecho!" Serve hot as a meal to 6 lucky people.

1. Make a marinade of the sour orange juice, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper. Turn all the meats in it, cover, and let marinate at least 2 hours (or overnight in the fridge), turning every 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Drain the meats, reserving the marinade, and add them to the pot, browning on all sides. Stir in the marinade and a little stock to scrape up and dissolve the flavorful brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Add all the vegetables, return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 1-2 hours. The longer it is simmered, Sandra says, the better...and I agree.

3. If you plan to serve with rice, start it while the soup is cooking.

4. When ready to serve, add salt and pepper to taste. If you want a thick texture, you may puree some of the vegetables and pour the puree back into the soup...but what a shame to cover up the brilliance and texture of these colorful chunks of veggies. Ladle into deep bowls, adding 1 or 2 tbsp of rice. A couple of drops of hot sauce does bring out the taste. To echo Sandra, buen provecho!