How to Cook Beef Tendon for Soup and Ultra Rich Broth
Recipe by Amanda Torres @ The Curious Coconut
PREP: 5 minutes
COOK: 7 hours
READY: 7+ hours
If you have spent much time on my blog, you know that I am a huge proponent of nose-to-tail eating. I did a huge round up of recipes that cover eating the whole animal, and many of my own recipes utilize offal and odd bits. Not only do we get incredible nutrition by eating the whole animal, but I believe it also pays greater respect to the animal’s life to enjoy as much of it as we can and waste as little as possible.
The USDA doesn’t have nutrition data for tendons, but I did a little digging in the scientific literature and found that, by dry weight, tendons are composed of about 85% collagen (mostly type I), 2% elastin and 1-5% proteoglycan (in the full text of this paper). Check out the end of this post for more information about the nutritional benefits of collagen. In short, it’s fantastic for skin, joint, and digestive health.
If you are a fan of the Vietnamese soup Pho, you may have already eaten beef tendon and not known it. Tendon is also a popular dish in China in soups and even as a stand-alone appetizer. Since I am on the autoimmune paleo protocol right now, I couldn’t make most of the recipes I found due to their need for soy sauce and/or seed-based spices (and I’m out of coconut aminos).
I wasn’t necessarily interested in an Asian-inspired experience anyway, and instead had been craving a good batch of Puerto Rican sancocho — a beef and tropical root vegetable + plantain soup. I wanted to make it extra rich by using some beef tendon broth in the base and include chunks of the slow-simmered tendon in the soup.
After much reading, I decided to cook the tendon by doing a long, low simmer on the stove top. I read that simmering it up to 7 hours would create an ultra rich broth just bursting with gelatin and collagen and produce melt-in-your-mouth tender pieces of tendon. People get really excited about eating beef tendon, calling it “the new pork belly”. I think it absolutely lives up to that title!
I didn’t use anything to season the broth. Instead, I knew I would use lots of fresh culantro to add extra flavor to the final soup. Note: culantro and cilantro are different herbs and serve different purposes. While cilantro is generally used fresh as a garnish or in raw condiments like salsas and guacamoles, culantro holds up much better to heat and is a cooking staple in many cuisines, including Puerto Rican. The flavor is somewhat similar to that of cilantro, but it is much stronger.
The long slow simmer worked out FABULOUSLY and and tendon was so incredibly satisfying to eat in the soup. The broth that I saved turned into rock-hard “Jello” after sitting in the fridge overnight (I should’ve taken a photo!)
Steps to Make It
1) First, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch tendons for about 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse off the scummy residue from the pot. Rinse tendons, too, if necessary.
2) Using a sharp knife, slice each tendon into pieces about 1 inch wide.
3) Return tendon pieces to the cleaned pot and use enough filtered water to cover the tendons by about 3/4 – 1 inch.
4) Watch pot carefully and bring water to a boil. Immediately reduce heat so that the water is at a gentle simmer. Try not to let it come to a rolling, strong boil as this may result in additional scummy residue forming.
5) Cover pot and allow to simmer for up to 7 hours. It is important to use a pot with a tight-fitting lid so that the water does not evaporate. I did not have to add any additional water over the course of the day in my enameled cast iron pot. Check on it occasionally to ensure that there is sufficient water in the pot and add more as necessary.If any new scum forms, skim it off.
6) Remove tendon pieces from broth and reserve for use in soup. A little of the broth will go a LONG way to enrich your soup broth. I used about 3 cups in a 5 quart batch of soup and the leftovers chilled into the consistency of Jello in the fridge!