Sofado – A Guatemalan Feast With a New Friend

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Making Sofado

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During a recent visit to Northern California, my friend Gloria said, “I just love those coconut cookies you made for Linda…can you show me how to make them?” “Of course I can,” I replied. The next thing I knew I was performing a cooking demonstration for Gloria à la the Food Network, carefully showing her how to mix chocolate and condensed milk and coconut to make the most sumptuous cookies. I even produced a copy of my recipe for her to follow along as I cooked.

“What special foods do you make that originate in Guatemala?” I asked. Gloria replied that she loved Sofado, a beef stewed with a fresh vegetable sauce, traditionally served with white rice, chopped vegetable salad (ensalata rusa) and homemade corn tortillas. She is the middle child in a clan of nine; huge simmering pots of stew were a popular item in their home kitchen. She learned to make this time honored dish from her mother in Quetzaltenago, Guatemala – the “second capital” of the country located in the southwest region. Her family still lives in this beautiful area, 45 minutes outside of the city on a farm with cattle and a huge vegetable garden.

The streets near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I have been fortunate to have visited many areas in Guatemala including Tikal as well as Livingstone and Rio Dulce, and I hope to explore more of the country someday soon. So I was immediately intrigued to learn more about Sofado. Gloria told me that, though not every Guatemalan makes this dish, it is a popular tradition in her family, often prepared for special occasions such as birthdays, christenings and anniversaries.

A Guatemalan woman at the market

I decided to barter with her. “I’ll teach you to make my cookies if you teach me to make Sofado,” I offered. Happily, she responded with one word. “Deal!”

She dictated a list of ingredients for me, and off I went to find meat, vegetables and the rest of her list. I had trouble finding the “long, red dried Chilis — not too spicy” and had to visit a second grocery store where I luckily saw them. I also purchased Maseka, instant corn flour, so she could make homemade corn tortillas.

The dish is a two day process. On the first day, the sauce is made and the chunks of beef marinate overnight. On day two, the meat is cooked until very soft. But the time spent is well worth it. This simple dish is rustic and mouth-watering. Perfect for a chilly fall day.

Gloria’s Sofado

Serves 6-8

  • 1 white onion, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 lbs of roma tomatoes whole (about 12)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 dry long red chili
  • 3 -4 lbs of chuck roast
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp vermouth or white wine

DAY 1:

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and place whole tomatoes, cloves of garlic, onion slices and cinnamon stick on the sheet. Broil until slightly brown, then turn the vegetables over and continue to broil until they soften, approximately 7 minutes per side. When finished, discard the cinnamon stick.

Meanwhile, take 1 long red pepper and remove the seeds. Cut it into 2 inch pieces, cover with water in a small saucepan and boil until it is very soft, about 10 -15minutes. Set aside.

Cut beef roast into pieces that are about 3 inches by 1 ½ inches. Wash meat with water, and leave in a bowl.

Remove the tomato skins (they slide off easily) and the garlic and onion skins and place about half of the broiled vegetables in a blender with about ⅓ cup of water. Puree, then strain into a bowl. Repeat with the second half of the vegetables.

Finally, in a separate batch puree the water/chili mixture. Strain about ⅓ of this chili mix into the tomato sauce – taste and season accordingly. We added the entire chili with water and it wasn’t too spicy. I also put in about ½ tsp of sugar which I always add to tomato sauces of any kind.

Place meat chunks into a large glass bowl, add the tomato/chili sauce and add wine and 3 bay leaves. If the meat isn’t covered with sauce, add additional water. Place saran on top of the bowl and store it in the refrigerator overnight.

DAY 2:

Place meat and all liquid in a pressure cooker and bring to full pressure, and cook for 50 minutes Let the pressure come down on its own – which takes about 15 minutes. Alternately you can cook the meat on the stovetop in a large pot at medium high like beef stew. This should take about 2 hours or until the beef is extremely tender.

We served this with brown rice, her vegetable salad, corn tortillas made from Maseka (made exactly like pupusas but not filled with anything).

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days. Or you can freeze it for up to two months.

Part of the reason I love cooking and myglobalkitchens is the connection I have with people from other cultures and lands over food; I learn about their families, their traditions, and how their lives and meals differ from mine. Usually, when I ask someone to show me or tell me how to make a particular food, they are puzzled. I think it’s rare these days for people to show such interest in the intricacies of creating a dish. Yet most are happy and honored to do so because they recognize that they are sharing their heritage with me and, by extension, my readers. I always remember where my global recipes originate – where I learned to make them, who taught me, and how our lives intersect. I can’t think of a better way to connect with these amazing people I meet all over the globe!

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2 Responses to Sofado – A Guatemalan Feast With a New Friend

  1. Lisa Paradis says:

    Can you give the recipe for the chocolate/coconut cookies you mention? Sounds easy and scrumptious.

    • Marilyn says:

      Lisa, they were called “tableta” and I have a recipe that I haven’t tried yet but will send to you. It sounds like what I had although it calls for brown sugar and to me that means turbinado sugar in Belize since they don’t have brown sugar. email me or send a request on facebook and I’ll forward the recipe I have–or you can wait until March when I actually test drive it.

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