dinner : semi-sancoche

Fall has barely arrived in NYC and already winter has decided to poke an icy finger into the mix.  With abnormally chilly temps and blustery winds assaulting the city today, I decided to seek refuge in what is perhaps the most comforting of all the comfort foods I know, sancoche (pronounced sang koch)

However, I was rather reluctant to post this recipe, because if you were to ask 10 sancoche aficionados exactly how it's made, you'd get about 15 different answers.  It is essentially a preparation that varies widely, depending on what's at hand.  But in the interest of side-stepping anyone who might challenge the authenticity of my recipe (at least, the way I decided to prepare it today), I am going to describe this soup as semi-sancoche.

Most traditional versions include split-peas and quite a few starchy root vegetables (yams, eddoes and the like) which I have not included today, as I wanted to keep the meal somewhat light.  But even without all those yummy carbs, this made quite a hearty, satisfying dish.

So here is my list of ingredients.  I'm not a fan of measuring things, so these numbers are mostly approximations.  I just tossed everything in a big pot and simmered over medium-high heat, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the chicken started falling off the bone. The one exception is the frozen corn, which I added in the last 10 minutes of the cooking process.

6 whole garlic cloves
1 medium onion, chopped
a few sprigs of thyme
8 leaves of shado beni (also called recao or culantro - you can use cilantro as a substitute)
8 stalks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 chayote squash, diced
3 cups of diced calabaza (butternut squash works well too)
1 10-oz box of frozen corn kernels
6 whole skinless chicken thighs
2 cups of diced smoked ham
1 can lite coconut milk
1 32-oz carton of unsalted chicken stock
3-4 cups of water
salt, to taste
1 scotch bonnet pepper (optional)

Scotch bonnet instructions for normal people:
The scotch bonnet is usually placed into the soup whole, and you must be careful when stirring not to rupture it.  The pepper should be removed before serving.

Scotch bonnet instructions for pepper-heads:
Just mince it up and throw it in, seeds and all.

Enjoy, and stay warm!
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