This classic Puerto Rican comfort food recipe instantly reminds me of home and fills my home with the delicious aroma of recao.
Whenever I feel blah, this soup from mi Isla, Puerto Rico, is where I turn to for comfort. It's my recipe for soul-warming Puerto Rican Beef Noodle Soup (or as we call it, sopa de res con fideos).
This soup normally takes more than two hours to get the stock nice and rich with the broth from the bones. That said, this is not the “full” version of the way the soup is actually made; this is the “condensed” version. Still, it's a recipe that uses many ingredients that are typical to Puerto Rico. One of these is recao, a seasoning base that we use as a flavoring to give our dishes a distinctive taste (and before anybody kills me, some Dominicans use it as well). We add it to just about everything we make: beans, soup, yellow rice, etc. It’s made from cilantro, culantro (coriander leaves,) green peppers, onions, garlic, sweet and chili peppers (aji dulce). It's all blended together and it becomes this purely beautiful-smelling concoction that screams “Puerto Rico.”
Adding the recao is totally optional. You don’t have to use it, or you can purchase the Goya version sold in the freezer section of your supermarket. I have partially taken care of it for you as I'm having you make a mini version of it by adding the green pepper, onion and garlic. The only thing that’s missing is the cilantro, culantro and aji dulce, which you can add if you wish for a complete recao serving for one. You add this to the soup when you put it in with the meat and stock.
Trust me when I tell you that you must try this beef noodle soup, but don’t wait until you’re sick or cold. It's is good on its own as a complete meal! Just add white rice, avocado, and/or fried plantains (what we call tostones or patacones).
Season your meat, both beef shank and beef cubes. I use my adobo seasoning mix which I make homemade, but you may use your own seasoning. Just make sure that you remember this will be covered with beef stock plus water, so you will have to season it well so the salt doesn’t wash away.
In a large kettle or Dutch oven, pour your broth and water in with the seasoned meat, then add bell pepper, onion, garlic cloves and celery. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on moderate to low heat for about an hour.
Transfer the vegetables to a blender and blend (use caution and place a damp towel over the opening so as not to have a catastrophe) until it turns into a puree (excluding the celery, you’ve just made a partial version of recao!) BE PROUD, BE VERY PROUD!
With a sieve, pour this puree back into the soup. You just want to extract the liquid, not the solids.
Now add in your carrots, yautia and potatoes. Gradually bring to a boil. Taste for salt and add pepper to taste. Add the oregano, bay leaf and tomato sauce.
Stir to mix in added ingredients. Cook over moderate high heat, stirring occasionally, uncovered for about a ½ hour more or until the potatoes, carrots and yautia are tender.
Add the noodles (fideos) and cook until they fideos are al dente.