I love how food, like yarn, can sew together generations.
I never met my mother’s mother, Maria (she died before I was born), but I think of her often.
I think of her at times, like last week, when after a long day all I wanted was a mug of tea and hot bath, and just as the bath water was warming up, I knocked my tea onto the concrete floor. With glass everywhere, to pray for patience — as my grandmother would have — was all that I could muster: “Dame paciencia Señor.”
And I think of her at times, like this week, when I made caldo de res, a traditional Mexican beef soup, that my grandmother made for my mom and my mom made for us.
The key to caldo de res, I think, is the timing. Here’s why: If you throw in all the vegetables at once, by the time the corn and carrots are cooked, the squash and potatoes will be slop.
So the key is to add the vegetables in the proper order (corn, carrots, celery, onion/tomato/cilantro, cabbage, potato, squash) with about fifteen minutes between each one.
Fifteen minutes between each one?
You mean it takes more than two hours to make this soup?!
Dame paciencia Señor.
Caldo de Res: Traditional Mexican Beef Soup
1.5 – 2 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs (about 4 ribs)
1 cob corn, peeled and cut into quarters
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 ribs celery, sliced into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
1/2 green cabbage, sliced into two or three wedges
2 white potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into chunks
2 summer squash, sliced into chunks
Salt, to taste
Fresh cilantro, for serving
Lemon or lime wedges, for serving
Sliced fresh jalapeños, for serving
Corn tortillas, for serving
Fill a large pot with water, about 2/3 full.
Add the short ribs.
Bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium so the water continues to bubble but is not at a rolling boil.
As foam rises to the top, skim it off with a spoon and discard.
After skimming the foam, set the lid ajar, and cook the short ribs for about 50 minutes.
Then add the corn, set the lid ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes.
Then add the celery, set the lid ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes. While the celery is cooking, heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the onions; cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes; cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the cilantro and stir.
Pour the onion-tomato-cilantro mixture into the pot of soup. Season the soup with about 1/2 tablespoon salt (you can add more later).
Around this time, you will probably need to add more water, as much of the original water will have evaporated by now. Just dump it right in — about 2-3 cups should bring you back up to the original water line.
Then add the carrots, set the lid ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes.
Then add the cabbage, set the lid ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes.
Then add the potatoes, set the lid ajar, and cook for … you guessed it … about 15 minutes.
Finally, add the squash, and cook for 10 more minutes. Test the veggies; cook for 5-10 more minutes if needed.
Taste; add more salt if needed. Remove pot from heat.
Serve soup warm, with cilantro, lime or lemon wedges, sliced jalapeños, and corn tortillas.