Friday, September 9, 2011

5 observations and beef shank soup

  1. My kids are ready for a little break.  There's no school next week and we are all very happy about it.  This week seemed to drag on and on.   It's only Wednesday?  why is this week going so slow?  Well, it's finally Friday and I am possibly as happy as they are about it.  I'm looking forward to a fun lazy week next week.
  2. I am so sick of my braces.  I'm in the home stretch (just a couple of months to go) but sometimes I fantasize about prying them off myself and never going back to the orthodontist.  I will be so happy when I can eat spinach in public again.
  3. I adore Haruki Murakami.  I finished a short story by him this morning, and I thought, It's like Borges, but with more sitting on the sofa and drinking beer.
  4. My kids love it when I make stuff for them.  This week I made some party invitations for one daughter and a sheet cake for my other daughter's class.  Their proud pleasure in these kind of things always surprises me (I always wonder, in the throes of one of these projects, wouldn't store-bought be better?).  I need to do it more often.
  5. This is a great song for a Friday and a holiday week:

Soup doesn't seem very tropical but they make really good soup here in Panama.  It's because of the culantro.  Culantro has brought me around to all kinds of meat dishes that I didn't like before.  It totally changes and brightens something dull like beef stew.  The other thing that has really gotten me into soup is plantain.  I love plantain in soup.  It really holds up to the long cooking time of the beef shanks and it's just slightly sweet (so nice against the brightness of the culantro and if you add some hot sauce--heaven).

Beef Shank Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bone-in beef shanks
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 handfull of culantro chopped fine
2 carrots cut into large chunks (3 or 4 pieces/carrot)
2 plantains cut into large chunks (4 or 5 pieces/plantain)
5 cups of potatoes, ñame, otoe, yucca cut into large chunks (if you cut it too small it will disintegrate by the time the meat is tender)
10 cups of water or stock
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, over a high flame, quickly brown the shanks in the oil (I put a little salt and pepper on the meat at this point).  Remove the meat and add the onions and culantro to the hot oil.  when the onions are soft, add the other vegetables and the stock or water.  Put the beef back into the pot.  Partially cover and bring to a low boil.  Turn the flame all the way down (I move the pot to the smallest burner with the lowest flame at this point) and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, I take the shank out and cut up the meat and remove the gristle.  My kids like it with a bit of white rice.  But personally, I think the rice is totally unnecessary.  The typical hot sauce here is made with habaneros and it goes very well with this soup.

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