Just recently on a trip back to Texas, my mother and I
revisited one of my favorite childhood dishes. It was a crockpot soup that my mother
would have at the ready on Sundays for lunch after Church, and when my dad
would finish up running a long distance race. She called it her “Calabacita.”
It was a very flavorful Mexican soup that played a heavy rotation on mom’s
In the 1970s and 80s, while juggling her art career, five kids and a return to college, her crockpot was her best salvation. Back then, this soup was canned tomatoes, frozen corn, thin bone-on pork chop, dried chilies, dried herbs and fresh calabacita squash (a local Texas squash variety meaning “little squash”). She started it in the morning before we went to mass, and it simmered until the afternoon. There was always enough for the inevitable Sunday lunch crasher.
In the years since, this 83 year old has created the most prolific urban garden, full of pecan, apple, pear and citrus trees, varieties of squash, onions, garlics, lettuces, herbs, peppers, broccolis, chards, and quite a few cacti.
I’m sure that there will be lots of tomatoes, avocados, watermelon and corn this summer.
I wanted to recreate her Calabacita using ingredients from her garden and still with her beloved crockpot (mom’s is a 6 qt crockpot).
2 lb Pork butt, diced into 1-inch cubes
From Mom’s Garden
2 sprigs Thyme, fresh
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 cup Onion, sliced
1 1/2 lb Texas calbacita (or yellow crookneck, zucchini, or tatume squash) raw, cut into 1-inch coins
2 ears Corn, roasted whole, unshucked until the husks are black and the corn is tender
2 Tomatoes, large, roasted whole, rough chopped
1 Red jalapeño, roasted until black and split open, seeds scraped
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2-4 qts Chicken Broth
In a 400° F oven, roast the corn (in their husks), tomatoes and jalapeño on a sheet tray.
In mom’s favorite cast iron skillet with hot oil, brown the cubes of pork butt on all sides. Drain and throw into the crockpot. (Yell upstairs at the kids again because "they’re gonna be late for church.")
In the same hot skillet, sweat the onion and garlic with the thyme. Then toss into crockpot.
Shuck the corn and cut it into 2-inch chunks. Throw into the pot (the corn, not the kids), followed by the tomatoes, squash and jalapeño.
Salt and pepper the surface and add chicken broth. Don’t fill to cover the food, just until you come up 3/4 of the volume. The calabacita will release a lot of liquid.
Wander into your art studio and get distracted by the piece you are working on until your son comes and reminds you that we should have left 20 minutes ago. Hop in the old Volkswagen, get halfway down the driveway, run back inside and turn on the crockpot. Proceed to church.
Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours (probably longer if you are a Latino Catholic and have to stop at the panadería after church for pan dulce).
When everything is soft and juicy, stir with wooden spoon (the same wooden spoon that you just whacked your son
with for sneaking into the bag of pan dulce before he had his lunch).
Adjust the salt and spiciness to taste.
Serve over fresh chopped Swiss chard with avocado, lime wedge and cilantro… all from mom’s garden.