Olla de Carne
Olla de Carne, which translates to pot of beef, is Costa Rican comfort food at its finest. Slow-simmered beef and a wide variety of vegetables (traditionally whatever was abundant at the time) creates a stew which warms you to your core and feels so, so nourishing. Probably knocks out a cold in a single serving too.
Made with beef, potatoes, plantains, sweet potatoes, squash, chicken broth, and sofrito, this stew is unlike anything I’ve had before. I don’t remember where I picked up the tip about using chicken broth, but it creates a very uniquely savory flavor. Add to that the plantains and chayote squash, and you have a stew that will really knock your socks off. This dish was traditionally made with whatever was growing at the time, so some other common ingredients you can feel free to add are: taro, cassava, corn, other squash, or really whatever sounds good.
Similar to French pot-au-feu, Spanish olla podrida, or really any other beef stew, olla de carne is a dish which traditionally takes a long time to prepare. Tough pieces of meat are added to a pot with lots of vegetables and are allowed to stew until all are tender and floating in a rich and flavorful broth. But, in the modern day, people just don’t have the time to cook stews like they used to. As a result, olla de carne, which used to be an everyday sort of meal has become an occasional treat. Families will cook olla de carne for a special weekend meal, and many restaurants serve it only one day a week. This recipe is for a quick olla de carne. You could simmer the stew all day, if you were so inclined, but it is also quite delicious after only thirty minutes on the stove.
Olla de Carne
1 lb. stew beef
½ large white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup tightly packed cilantro, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into 1” cubes
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1” cubes
1 carrot cut in 1” slices
2 plantains, cut in 1” slices
2 chayote squash, cut into 1” cubes (optional)
8 cups chicken broth
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add a splash of oil and the stew beef. Cook until nicely browned and remove the meat from the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium and quickly add the onion, garlic, cilantro, and red bell pepper. Cook these, stirring often, until the onions begin to turn translucent.
Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, plantains, and squash to the pot as well as 8 cups of chicken broth.
Simmer the stew for around 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
Serve by itself or with rice.