Steak and Potato Stew

Caldillo de Papas

The warming big flavors of this one-dish meal makes this one of our family’s favorite winter meals. Serve it with lots of hot flour tortillas.

When I was researching for my second book, Cocina de la Familia, I spent a good part of one day in the Santa Fe home of Dora Chavez, surrounded by at least three generations of her family. Ten kids of all ages seem to live with her still, and others just dropped by to give her a hug or get a bite to eat. As she said several times, “It gets lonely here whenever they are not around.” Then in her mid-70s, Dora, having raised 15 of her own children–and having at the time 45 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren–learned by necessity how to cook frugally, especially during the lean years of the 1930s. Beans and potatoes in one form or another were served at least daily; the family consumed a 100 pound gunnysack of potatoes in a week. When there was money for a bit of meat, a favorite dish was caldillo de papas, a thickish potato stew mixed with small cubes of beef.

  • 2 or more tablespooons safflower or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onions
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin tip or chuck steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes or very coarsely ground (chili grind)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 5 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 6 canned green chiles, preferably New Mexican, cut into 1/4-by 1-inch strips
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2- by 1 1/2-inch strips

For the Garnish

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Warm the oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, and oregano, and cook until the onion wilts and becomes pale gold.

Raise the heat and add the meat by the handful, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally. The meat should cook until all the pink is gone, then add salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir diligently but gently until the flour has absorbed all the moisture. Stir in the broth a bit at a time and simmer, uncovered,for 20-30 minutes, until the meat is tender. (If using ground meat, cook only 15 minutes.) Add more broth if necessary.

Add the chiles and potatoes, and cook, covered, about another 20 minutes, until the potatoes soften and the broth is thickened. Taste again and adjust the seasoning, Freshly ground black pepper seems to pull out even more flavor from the green chiles.

Ladle into heated soup bowls and scatter parsley over the top just before serving.

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