I will just go ahead and put it out there. This is the BEST soup ever. EVER. A friend gave me John Besh's cookbook My New Orleans. I will thank both Chef Tesh and my friend for giving the opportunity to make this delicious soupy stew tonight. Aren't the colors in that bowl GORGEOUS?
Now a little background on Caldo. The Isleños (Islanders) came to the marshlands of St. Bernard Parish in Southern Louisiana from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, over 200 years ago. They brought a version of the Spanish stew puchero, which they remained caldo and made with vegetables from the South Louisiana harvest. Caldo is a slow-cooked soupy stew that always includes pork.
Instead of using ham hocks, I had a pound of sliced, smoked pork in the freezer, which I thawed and cubed.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ham hocks
2 cups lima beans
2 large handfuls mustard greens, chopped
1 cup diced whole tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup corn kernels
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 large handful of green beans, chopped
1 1/2 gallons chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground allspice
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over moderate heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add the ham hocks (or the cubed smoked pork), lima beans, mustard greens, tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, and green beans and mix with the cooked vegetables.
Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, cayenne, and allspice. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer the caldo until all the vegetables are soft and the ham hocks are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Season with the salt and pepper. If you're using the ham hocks, remove from the soup, shred the meat,and return it to the soup. Serve it up in bowls.