Sancocho is a Latin American stew that is usually served at special occasions, holidays and weekends. While each country has its own take, the recipe typically consists of hearty meats and tropical vegetables like yuca and plantains, simmered in a savory, seasoned stock. Smoked paprika and ham hocks give it a distinctive smoky flavor.
Heat oil in 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add beef in batches; cook 8 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Set aside.
Stir onion, bell pepper and bay leaves into pan; cook and stir 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly soft. Return beef to pan.
Stir in stock, tomato paste and seasonings; mix well. Add ham hocks, vegetables and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro.
*Or use 1 pound each cubed beef for stew, boneless pork shoulder, cubed, and chicken thighs.
**Feel free to substitute winter squash, such as butternut or acorn squash, or other tropical tubers, such as ñame (West African yam), taro, yautía (malanga), batata blanca (boniato, tropical sweet potato or white sweet potato), or green bananas, or corn-on-the cob, cut into 1-inch pieces. Use a total of 8 cups cubed squash, tubers and fruit.