Caldo de patas de res or cow feet soup is another one of those typical Latin dishes that people either love or hate, nothing wrong with that; but at least try it before you decide to hate it. As a child I was a picky eater about some foods, especially those that didn’t look or sound normal, however even then I liked this soup (so I was forced to try it the first time, but I actually liked it once I tasted it). This might sound weird, but there is something comforting about a good caldo de pata – those of you that have had this soup (and liked it) can relate to this.
Caldo de pata is a soup that I’ve wanted to make for a while, but didn’t know where to find cow feet or cow hooves. When I saw them at Uwajimaya, a local Asian grocery store, I knew I had to make it. Uwajimaya, for those in Seattle, is a great source for hard to find meat cuts, you can also find tripe, brains, tongue, and many other non-mainstream meat parts.
I knew that if I told my boys, ages 6 & 9, that this soup was made with cow feet, they might be skeptical – and that’s considering that they’re actually quite adventurous eaters: they love sushi and guatita or tripe stew. However, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I didn’t say anything. They commented that the meat pieces were a little bit gummy in texture – they love most foods, but sometimes have issues with textures. Maybe they watch too many cooking shows (with me), but they love to “judge” and rate my food. My oldest, Alex, is the most critical and likes to give a lot of feedback (usually exactly the same: it needed something else to make it really explode in my mouth, blah, blah). He’s been doing a lot of essays in school, which require him to be very descriptive and use similes, so he’s started applying that to his food critiques. Even mac & cheese gets feedback from him.
Alex decided to give this soup 4 ½ stars (out of 5), which is great since he never rates anything except for ice-cream sundaes a 5. Marc, the youngest, gave me a 5, he always does, unless he really doesn’t like it, then I get a 4 and his comment that he “just liked it a little bit” – I see a diplomat career in his future. After lunch, I thought it would be funny to see their reaction when I told them that the soup was made with cow feet. Marc didn’t care at all; he was mainly concerned about getting his Pokémon to the next level in his DS game. Alex’s reaction was a different story, in his I-know-everything wannabe teenager voice, he said: “Seriously, mom, you really shouldn’t have told me this, how do you ever expect me to eat this again?”. I thought it would help if I told him that cow feet were a key ingredient in gelatin which was used to make panna cotta – he loves it- as well as marshmallows and gummy candies. Big mistake, he told me that “I had ruined the best desserts for him” – he’s very dramatic. Anyway, I’m guessing that he’ll still eat those desserts and that I can probably convince him to eat caldo de pata again, though I might have to wait a few months.
There are many variations of caldo de patas or cow feet soup, depending on the country, the region or even the family that prepares it. Based on the variation it can include hominy, yuca, plantains, garbanzos, potatoes, corn, or other vegetables. Most of the time caldo de pata is made with cow feet; however it is sometimes also made with pig feet. My recipe for caldo de pata is based on the Ecuadorian version and is made with cow feet, yuca or cassava, mote or hominy, peanuts or peanut butter, milk, as well as onions, garlic, fresh herbs and spices. Like other Ecuadorian dishes, this soup is also considered a great cure for hangovers – sometimes I feel bad that whenever I introduce a new traditional Ecuadorian dish to my friends, I have to mention “it’s a great hangover cure”. But hey, if you had too much canelazo the night before you might want to consider a hot bowl of cow feet soup (and I should probably add a hangover food category to this blog – oh wait, I already did that). Caldo de pata is typically served with a side of cooked white rice, like most soups I also serve it with avocado slices and aji or hot sauce. The quantities in this recipe are for 8-10 people.
Recipe: Caldo de pata or cow feet soup
Summary: Caldo de patas de res or cow feet soup is a traditional Latin American comfort soup made with cow feet, yuca, mote or hominy, cilantro, parsley, onions, garlic, achiote, cumin, peanuts, milk, oregano.
- 3 lbs cow feet, washed well and cut in large pieces
- 14 cups water
- 4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed but still whole
- ½ red onion, diced
- 3-5 cilantro sprigs
- 3-5 parsley sprigs
- 20 oz yuca, frozen (or fresh and peeled)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 cups cooked hominy, you can used canned hominy
- 4 tbs peanut butter
- 1 cup milk
- ½ white onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground achiote
- ½ bunch finely chopped cilantro
- 1 bunch finely chopped green onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the cow foot in a large pot, add the crushed garlic, chopped red onions, cilantro and parsley sprigs, cumin, salt, pepper, and the water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours.
- Add the yuca and cook until the yuca and cow feet are tender, about 20-30 more minutes.
- Remove from the heat, when safe to handle strain the broth and save the broth for later. You can remove some of the grease that rises to the top and save it for the refrito.
- Remove the strings from the yuca and cut into medium size pieces.
- Cut the cow feet in small bite size pieces, removing the bones.
- Make a refrito or base for the soup using a couple tablespoons of grease from the boiled cow foot broth: heat it over medium heat in a soup pot, add the chopped onions, garlic, oregano, achiote, cumin, salt and pepper
- Mix the peanut butter with the milk and add it to the refrito, stir it well and make sure the peanut butter dissolves well
- Add the broth, chopped cow feet pieces, yuca and the cooked mote.
- Simmer over low heat for about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro and chopped green onions. This soup is also served with a side of Ecuadorian style white rice, avocado slices and hot sauce.