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Dominican Sancocho With Oxtail & Chicken a la Juvi

sancocho corrected

I grew up feeling very disconnected from my Dominican roots in many ways, but the thing that really helped me reconnect was the food. 

As an adult, making sancocho has served as a way for me to connect with my Dominicanidad and preserve the memories of my childhood. It’s also been a beautiful way for me to honor my ancestors, who likely made sancocho from the very little they had.

Sancocho is the dish that when I was a kid felt like it took all day to make—and in some ways, it still feels that way. We usually had it during the winter or on rainy gloomy weekends. As I got older it was cure-all—for colds, the flu, and the occasional broken heart.

It’s important to note that when I made this sancocho I didn’t measure anything. You might end up not using all the root vegetables if you don’t have room in the pot. Also, important to note that most of my cooking is done by “eyeballing” ingredients, and feeling the little spark” inside that tells me I’ve added just enough of something!

Everyone has their own way of enjoying a sancocho. I love adding white rice in my sancocho, squeezing some lime, a dash of hot sauce, and topping it with avocado. I know folks who refuse to do this and think it’s blasphemous—LOL! Whatever way you enjoy yours, make sure to remember that nothing beats a good sancocho for the soul.

P.S. The leftovers are even better. But just be aware that the root vegetables thicken the broth the longer they sit. However, this is an easy fix: you can thin out with water for your lunch or dinner the next day (and the days after!). Buen provecho!

Ready to get your sancocho on, a la Juvi?

Dominican Sancocho a la Juvi

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Juviza Rodriguez Cuisine: Dominican
Servings

10 to 15

servings
Prep time

1

hour 

30

minutes
Cooking time

2

hours 

30

minutes

Ingredients

  • The Meat
  • 1.5 lb 1.5 chicken

  • 1 lb 1 oxtail

  • 1 pack 1 smoked ham steak

  • The Produce & Seasonings
  • 1.5 lbs 1.5 ñame or taro

  • 3 to 4 3 to 4 yuca, frozen

  • 2 2 green plantains, large

  • 2 lbs 2 kabocha pumpkin

  • 3 to 4 3 to 4 mini corn, frozen

  • 1 1 red onion, small

  • 1 1 white onion, small

  • 1 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 head 1 garlic

  • 3 to 4 3 to 4 thyme sprigs

  • 1 bunch 1 oregano, fresh

  • 1 bunch 1 cilantro, fresh

  • black pepper, to taste

  • paprika, to taste

  • achiote powder, to taste

  • salt, to taste

  • 1 pieces 1 lemon (yellow)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 vinegar, white or apple cider vinegar

  • 1 to 2 Tbps 1 to 2 olive oil

  • 16 to 24 oz 16 to 24 chicken stock or broth, unsalted

Directions

  • The Brine (for the Meat)
  • Make a brine by adding water, about ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of 1 lemon to a large bowl. Place chicken and oxtail pieces in the brine. Pretend you are “washing” the meat with this brine and massage/wash the meat for about 1 minute. Let the meat sit in the brine mixture for 20-30 minutes.
  • The Marinade (or My Version of Sofrito)
  • While the meat sits in the brine, move on to making the marinade for the meat. Make a sofrito for the meat. Place in the blender: the red bell pepper, the full peeled head of garlic, ½ of a red onion, ½ a white onion, a hefty handful of cilantro, 1 bunch of fresh oregano, garlic and a healthy dose of olive oil to a food processor or blender. Blend.
  • Once mixed, add a little bit of water (1-2 Tbsp) to thin out the mixture.
  • Add salt, pepper, paprika and a dash of achiote powder and blend again for 30 seconds. Set aside while until the meat finishes brining.
  • The Meat + the Marinade
  • Drain the brine from the meat. Lightly pat the chicken with a paper towel (it’s not necessary to pat it fully dry since it will sit in a marinade anyway). Season the meat with some salt, pepper, and paprika and rub it into the meat.
  • Pour about ¾ of the marinade you made over the meat and massage it in (you can also just use tongs to move the meat around). Save ¼ of the marinade for later—it will come in handy as you build the broth for the sancocho.
  • Cover the bowl with the marinated meat with pastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour. (if you can marinate for longer even better).
  • The Root Vegetables
  • While the meat is marinating, start prepping the root vegetables. Peel the plantains, the ñame or taro and the kabocha pumpkin. For better handling, cut the peeled ñame in half and then into half again. From there cut the halves into smaller pieces (2 to 2 ½ inches). Do the same with the kabocha pumpkin.
  • Take 1 of the peeled plantains and cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch pieces (this will yield maybe 6 pieces of plantain). Take the other peeled plantain and cut it in half. You will use these pieces to make “plantain dumplings,” which get added into the sancocho during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
  • Place alll the peeled root veggies in a bowl of cold water and “wash them.” Swirl them around for a bit and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the water from the root vegetables and set aside.
  • Ready? Let’s Make the Sancocho Stew
  • When the meat is marinated, take it out from the fridge and place it on the counter for about 15 to 20 minutes to lose some of its chill. I typically do this so that I don’t add cold meat to a hot pot—I find that this can actually toughen the meat.
  • Put a large pot (the largest you have) over medium heat and 1 to 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Take about ½ of the smoked ham steak and cut it into large diced pieces. Add the diced ham pieces into the warm oil and saute for 5 to 7 minutes. This helps build up the flavor for the sancocho.
  • Remove the ham pieces and set them to the side. You can save them for something else—like eggs and ham, pasta and ham, etc. I chose to remove them because I don’t like ham in my soups. I just like the flavor it gives.)
  • Add the rest of the marinade that you reserved earlier to the pot and simmer on low for 2 to 3 minutes. This will help continue building the flavor for what will be the broth of your sancocho.
  • Transfer the meats from the bowl into the pot—marinade and all—and cover with a lid. Let cook for 25 to 30 minutes on medium to medium-low heat.
  • Make Your Plantain Dumplings
  • While the meats are cooking, take the plantain you cut into halves and grate them with a grater. The consistency should be mushy and a bit sticky. You can also put them in a food processor to get this consistency, but be careful not to overprocess. It should NOT be runny. If it’s too runny, you won’t be able to mold them into little dumpling balls.
  • Take the grated plantain and form small balls (about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches). You should be able to form 5 to 6 plantain dumplings, depending on how large the plantains you started with are. Set your formed dumplings aside.
  • Back to the Sancocho!
  • Uncover the pot and check the meat. It is likely that the meat will not be fully cooked and this is OK. Stir the meat and cover again for another 15 minutes on medium-low heat.
  • Check again to see how cooked the meat is. Don’t worry about overcooking—the meat will continue to become tender and eventually fall off the bone towards the end.
  • Add the unsalted chicken broth. Start with a 16-oz. carton. It’s likely that one carton will not be enough since you’ll be using a large pot. You can add water, but you can also use more chicken stock, if you have a second carton. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover the meat: uour pot should be a little less than ¾ full at this point. Cover the pot with a lid and let the meat cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • When these 10 to 15 minutes are up, the taste test begins. Start sampling the broth and adjust based on the seasings you think might be lacking. In my case, I kept adding the same seasonings I used from the start. I added the juice of 1 lemon and a dash of apple cider vinegar. I also added 2 to 3 sprigs of dried thyme and a handful of cilantro and let it continue to cook. At this point the the pot was starting to slow simmer-almost boil. So far the meat will have been cooking for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Time to Add the Root Vegetables
  • Add the root vegetables you peeled and 3 to 4 pieces of frozen yuca. Do not add the plantain dumpling balls yet! Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook on medium heat for about 25 to 30 minutes. Try not to open the lid to check on it, because this messes with how the meat cooks and how the vegetables cook as well.
  • After 25 to 30 minutes, open the lid and stir. Check your root vegetables. They should not be mushy, but you should be able to put a fork through them. Add the frozen mini corn (3 to 4 pieces should be enough). Stir and taste the broth, adjusting flavors as needed.
  • Is Your Meat Falling Off the Bone?
  • Check the chicken and oxtail. At this point, the meat might be tender and possibly falling off the bone. You should notice that the broth is starting to get thicker. If it isn’t, cover and cook for a little longer.
  • When the sancocho’s broth starts to take on a thicker appearance, this means it’s close to being done. It’s the big moment: add the plantain dumplings and let the pot cook for another 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, the sancocho should be boiling (if it wasn’t already). I don’t cover the pot with the lid tightly because at this point there’s quite a lot of stuff in the pot. I usually cover it with the lid three-fourths of the way on—just enough room to let the sancocho get to a roaring boil.
  • How I Know My Sancocho Is Done!
  • The way I know my sancocho is done is when it boils over onto the stove. I know it sounds crazy! But it’s just a feeling I get. When the sancocho spills a bit onto the stove, I turn it off, place a lid on it and let it sit for probably 20 minutes.
  • It’s ready to serve. I love adding white rice in my sancocho, squeezing some lime, a dash of hot sauce, and topping it with avocado. !Que rico!

Notes

  • For context on timing, I began prepping for the sancocho at 10 a.m. By 11:30 am, I had the meat cooking in the pot. The sancocho was finally done by 1:30 pm-1:45 pm (plus the 10 to 20 minutes that it sat for after I turned the stove off). So, start to finish: about 4 hours.
  • Most people leave the skin on the chicken when making sancocho. Not me. I leave it on the drumsticks and wings, but not the breast (it ends up slipping off anyway and I don’t like wobbly chicken skin!).
  • I make my own version of sofrito. I don’t use bouillon cubes, sazón, or any of the traditional seasonings that are popular in Latino cooking because they are way too salty. Instead I make my own blends and marinades, as you see in this recipe, above.
  • I mistakenly bought a batata blanca (aka a Japanese yam) instead of a ñame. But it turned out to be delicious anyway! Here’s a helpful guide to root vegetables used in Dominican cooking.
raw vegetables sancocho
Washing the root vegetables for the sancocho.
sancocho CU
When the sancocho’s broth starts to take on a thicker appearance, this means it’s close to being done.
I love adding white rice in my sancocho, squeezing some lime, a dash of hot sauce and topping it with avocado.

Photos: Chris Watkins


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