It seems to be kale and cocktail week here at the farm. (And we are OK with that, things could be worse.) Kale is in season, and after making a massaged kale salad, we decided to make a kale-based main dish, and we quickly settled on cooking up a pot of Caldo Verde. If you are going to have a kale recipe that will please a crowd, we suggest you take a look at making Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde, one of Portugal’s most popular dishes, is a soup of kale, potatoes and onions that often includes extra herbs, garlic, sausage and pork. This is a hearty soup that is easy to make and uses readily available ingredients. And if its cold outside, there are few things better than a big bowl of this soup.
Caldo Verde is also a versatile dish, you can start with a basic version of kale, potato, onion and linguica sausage (or spanish chorizo) and be ready in about an hour. But, if you want to add depth you can make a quick pork stock from ham hocks and add garlic, other herbs, etc. The only issue is time. But since we had some time, our recipe is based on making a ham hock-based stock, using the meat from the ham hocks and building the Caldo from the ham stock. We also add extra herbs to brighten the flavor. But if you don’t have the time, stick to the basic recipe and use salted water or low-sodium chicken stock as the base of your soup.
As for making the dish, if you can boil water and rough chop some ingredients, you can cook a fine batch of Caldo Verde. The only real trick in this recipe is that you use half of the potatoes as a thickener for the stock and add half later to have pieces of potato in the soup. You can mash the potatoes with an immersion blender, potato masher or even with the back of a wooden spoon, but don’t skip this step, the potatoes give extra flavor and silky texture to the soup. Otherwise this recipe is as simple, and as good, as it gets.
So how does Caldo Verde taste? It depends somewhat on the base you use for the soup, but you will get bright kale, rich potato, sweet onions and some spice from the linguica sausage. If you use a ham hock or shank for the soup base, it will be richer and smokier, while water or chicken stock will be a bit brighter flavored and lets the kale lead the dish. But there is one more thing, regardless of how you make your Caldo, it will be good the first day, but even better the second day. So make a big batch and enjoy this soup over a couple of days. You will be glad you did.
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use any type of kale for this dish, just slice it thinly before adding to the pot.
- Linguica is a Portuguese, mildly spicy, smoked and cured pork sausage with paprika and garlic. Substitute Spanish chorizo or other cured, spicy pork sausage.
What You Get: A very flavorful and satisfying winter soup. Plenty of veggies, too.
What You Need: An immersion blender or potato masher will help mash the potatoes, but you can use the back of a wooden spoon, if you like. No other special equipment required.
How Long? About an hour if using salted water or chicken stock. About 2 hours if making a stock with ham hocks.
(Makes 6-8 servings)
Ham Hock Stock:
- 2-3 ham hocks or 1 large smoked ham shank sawed (by your butcher) into 3 pieces
- 2 quarts of water
- Salt, to taste
- 2 quarts Ham Hock stock, lightly salted water or low-sodium chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 medium potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold), peeled and in 1/2 dice
- 1 pound of linguica sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- Ham from the ham hocks or shanks (if using)
- Red pepper flakes
- 1 pound of kale, heavy ribs removed and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
Ham Hock Stock:
- Add the water, ham hocks and a few teaspoons of salt to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When at a boil, lower the heat and simmer the ham hocks until cooked and they pull off the bone, about 1 hour. Taste the stock and add salt if needed, the stock should be just a bit salty.
- Pull the ham hocks from the stock and allow to cool on a plate. When cool, pull the skin and bones from the ham hocks, pull off any meat and roughly chop. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the ham hock stock, salted water or chicken stock to a low boil.
- Meanwhile, put half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook until just colored, 2-3 minutes. Add half the potatoes and cook, stirring often, for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the potato mixture to the large pot with the stock and cook until the potatoes are mushy, 15-20 minutes. Then, using an immersion blender or potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Now, add the remaining potatoes and cook until done, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the linguica and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 10 minutes. Then add the linguica to the soup pot. Add the ham pieces, if using, and stir into the soup. At this point, taste the stock, if you like extra spice, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- When the potatoes are cooked but still firm add the kale, parsley and cilantro to the pot. Cook until the kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.
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