Olla de Carne
(Costa Rican beef and vegetable stew)
As a dish of beef and vegetables with broth, olla de carne is likely based on a similar meal from Spain, called olla podrida. The Tico version includes locally available ingredients, including cassava, taro, plantains and corn.
Olla de carne, Spanish for "pot of meat," was traditionally the mid-day meal for most Costa Ricans, sometimes eaten several days a week. These days, it's more often enjoyed on weekends.
6 to 8 servings
- Beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat -- 1 pound
- Beef stew meat -- 1 pound
- Water or stock -- 3 quarts
- Boiling potatoes (papas), cut into chunks -- 1 pound
- Cassava (yuca), peeled and cut into chunks -- 1 pound
- Sweet potatoes (camote), peeled and cut into chunks -- 1/2 pound
- Green plantains (plátanos verdes), peeled and cut into chunks -- 2
- Carrots (zanahorias), cut into 1-inch rounds -- 3
- Corn on the cob (elotes), cut into 2-inch pieces -- 2 or 3 cobs
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Add the meat and water or stock to a large, deep pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is starting to get tender.
- Skim off any excess fat from the top of the simmering broth, then stir in the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes or so until all the vegetables are cooked through but not falling apart. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Remove the meat and vegetables to a warm platter and strain the broth. Serve the meat and vegetables with hot cooked rice and the broth in bowls.
Olla de Carne Variations
- Using a pressure cooker: It is very common for Costa Ricans to use a pressure cooker for the initial cooking of the meat. This cuts down on cooking time, renders the meat meltingly tender and makes an exceptionally flavorful broth. Once the meat is cooked, the pressure cooker top is removed, and the vegetables can be cooked at a normal simmer.
- For added flavor: Saute some chopped onions, garlic and celery in the pot with a couple tablespoons of oil until the onion is cooked through and translucent. Then add the meat and broth and proceed with the recipe. For herbs, use dried oregano, thyme or bay leaf. Stir in some chopped cilantro toward the end for fresh flavor.
- Other vegetables: Chopped chayote, wedges of cabbage, chunks of winter squash or pumpkin (ayote), taro root (tiquisque), peeled and cut into chunks. You can also use ripe plantains, which will give a mild sweetness to the dish. Make sure to add these toward the end though so they don't overcook and fall apart.