Caldo Gallego, South Florida Style

Caldo Gallego
Photograph by Leigh Beisch

There are cookbooks I want to just curl up in a corner and read and drool over, and cookbooks that actually inspire me to get into the kitchen. With Nancie McDermott’s books, I want to do both. Such is the case with her latest, Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffee and Fricassees (Chronicle, 2015). In each thoughtfully selected and perfected recipe, McDermott provides deep and fascinating insight into the South’s diverse cultures by way of the stockpot or Dutch oven. While the classic rib-sticking soup, Caldo Gallego, has roots in northwestern Spain, she acknowledges its Cuban influences in this version that’s made its way up to Florida.

Beans, greens, potatoes, and some kind of pork are the common denominators of all. Some variations, she notes, include tomatoes, ham hock and saffron. I mostly followed this recipe as written, using a combination of turnip greens and kale for the greens and kielbasa for the sausage, and ramping up the heat with a few shakes of hot sauce. McDermott recommends serving it over rice or hot buttered bread. On a rainy autumn evening it hit the spot, and provided a welcome, ready-made lunch straight from the fridge for days to come.

Serves 8 to 10

5 bacon slices, cut up
1½ cups chopped onions
1 pound dried navy beans, soaked in cold water for 6 hours, or overnight (or 5 cups canned navy beans, rinsed and drained)
6 ounces chorizo sausage, andouille, or smoked kielbasa
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 cups 1-inch chunks peeled potatoes
4 cups chopped turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, or Swiss chard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Hot sauce for seasoning, optional


In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until it sizzles, stirring as it begins to curl and brown, about 1 minute. Add the onions and cook, tossing them often, until both ingredients are shiny and fragrant, and the bacon is nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the beans, add them to the pot, and stir well. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring it to an active boil and stir the beans. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle, but visible, lively simmer, and cook for 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender.

While the beans cook, cut the sausage lengthwise in half, and then crosswise into 1⁄2-inch chunks. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles at once. Add the sausage and cook, tossing it often, until it is shiny, fragrant, and nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, toss it well, and set the pan aside.

When the beans are tender, stir the potatoes and turnip greens into the pot. Cook until the greens and potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the sausage along with the garlic and the oil in which they cooked. Add the salt and pepper, stir well, and remove the pot from the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot or warm, with hot sauce on the side if desired.

Tip: Look for fresh chorizo in the refrigerator case, resembling kielbasa or andouille sausage. You could also use Spanish-style chorizo, the dark red, harder-textured dried version, as well.