Beefy Okra and Tomato Soup

There’s not a serious cook in the South who doesn’t have his or her special version of okra and tomato soup. Craig Claiborne used to add a little country ham to his Mississippi variation; Louis Osteen at Louis’s in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, makes his with rice, bell peppers, and chile peppers; the chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta almost transforms the soup into a stew by including fresh corn and shrimp; and my own mother would never dream of preparing hers without both a marrow bone and diced beef. I make this soup only in the summer, when small, tender, fresh okra and homegrown tomatoes are available—hardly a sacrifice since the soup can be made in quantity and frozen very successfully in individual containers for the winter.

Ingredients

  • 1 soup bone
  • One -pound piece boneless beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs (leaves included), chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • pounds fresh okra (stems removed), sliced
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

In a large, heavy pot, combine the soup bone, beef, onions, celery, and bay leaf. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer till the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Transfer the beef to a cutting board, cut it into small dice, and set aside. Discard the soup bone.

Strain the liquid in the pot and discard the solids. Skim the fat from the liquid, rinse out the pot, and return the liquid to the pot. Add the diced beef, tomatoes, okra, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper, return the soup to a simmer, and cook about 1 hour. Adjust the seasoning and serve very hot in soup bowls.

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