The signature dish at Mocotó, one of São Paulo's most celebrated restaurants, is a hearty cow’s-heel soup by the same name. Hailing from the Brazilian backlands of the Sertão, the stew is a comforting taste of home for Sertão transplants in São Paulo, including Mocotó founder José Oliveira de Almeida. When his son Rodrigo took over the restaurant, he swapped out the traditional cornmeal or wheat flour for grated cassava, resulting in a much lighter and more flavorful broth.
Featured in: In Brazil, Finding Comfort in Cow’s Foot Soup
- 3 lb. calves’ feet, sliced crosswise 2 inches thick by your butcher
- 2 tsp. ground annatto seeds
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
- 6 oz. cassava root (yuca), peeled and coarsely chopped (1½ cups)
- 1 large Roma tomato (4½ oz.), coarsely chopped (1 cup)
- ¼ large green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (½ cup)
- 9 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (3 Tbsp.)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely chopped fresh cilantro, for topping
In a large stockpot, add the calves’ feet and enough cold water to cover by 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then drain, discarding the cooking liquid. Rinse out the pot. Rinse the feet well, then return them to the pot and cover with enough fresh cold water to again cover by 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and adjust the heat to maintain a strong simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin and cartilage are tender and soft, about 4 hours.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the feet to a large, heat-resistant bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Set the feet aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, in a blender, add the annatto, cumin, coriander, vinegar, onion, cassava, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Purée until completely smooth, then set aside.
Remove and discard the bones from the feet. Cut the meat, tendons, and skin into rough ½-inch cubes, return to the bowl, and set aside.
Rinse out the pot, then add the puréed vegetable and the cubed meat. Measure the remaining cooking liquid, then add enough water to reach 4½ quarts. Add the liquid to the pot. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, then adjust the heat to maintain a strong simmer. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the cassava from clumping, until the broth thickens, loses its raw flavor, and reaches a velvety texture, 35-40 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Divide between wide soup bowls, top with cilantro, and serve hot.