Blessed are we who have friends who travel and share wondrous images from far and wide. This time of year those glimpses of other-than-gray can be lifesavers. Some of these generous friends go a step further, sharing recipes as well as pictures of regional dishes they relished.
Our friend Ann was so inspired by time she spent in Asturias, in northwestern Spain, she came home determined to make “fabada asturiana,” the region’s rich and hearty bean stew. But she and her family went a step further: they even made their own chorizo and let it air-cure! With beans and pimentón they brought back from Spain, they made up a stew that was transporting!
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Even those of us not quite that inspired can enjoy this taste-of-elsewhere that’s still perfect on these American Plains. Even if you don’t have easy access to dried fabes (the Italians call them favas), you can substitute other big white beans. And you could try dry Italian salami if you can’t find dry chorizo or don’t want to order online. Smoked Spanish paprika is available at many spice counters hereabouts. And the slick trick of grating fresh tomatoes to eliminate the skins is another reason give this Spanish stew a try.
½ pound meaty pancetta
½ pound dry Spanish chorizo
1 meaty ham hock (about 1 pound)
2 quarts plus 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 pound dried Asturian fabes beans (or fava beans or cannellini beans) soaked in water overnight and drained
Bouquet garni: 1 small halved onion, 8 garlic cloves, 2 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
Large pinch of saffron, finely ground in a mortar
¼ cup boiling water
1 medium tomato, halved crosswise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
½ pound blood sausage
Fill a pot halfway with water; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pancetta, chorizo and ham hock; simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Drain the meat and return to the pot. Add the stock, beans and bouquet garni and bring to a boil over high heat; skim off any foam. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the beans are just tender, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, mix the saffron with the boiling water until dissolved. Grate the tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater set in a bowl until only the skins remain; discard the skins.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the pimentón and cook, stirring, until the onion is coated, about 1 minute. Add the grated tomato and simmer until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the onion mixture into the pot of beans along with the brewed saffron and the blood sausage. Simmer uncovered until the beans are very tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
Transfer the meats to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces. Discard the ham bone and bouquet garni. Return the meats to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the fabada to bowls and serve.