Even though spring has officially arrived we in Northern California have been subject to a series of very cold winds and rains this past week that are way too reminiscent of the bite of winter! Last night was one of those nights so instead of lighting the outdoor barbecue we fired up the Wolf… Dayton was inspired to create his own version of fabada, an Asturian bean stew that is very popular thoughout Spain. Beans are universally considered robust fare and what could be better dining on a cold and rainy night! Fabada Asturiana reminds one of the French cassoulet… and that for good reason. Asturia’s location on Spain’s northern coast places it very near to France.
Fabada, a one dish stew with humble peasant origins, is probably the second most famous Spanish dish after paella. We chose in our preparation to capture those humble beginnings by retaining the onion and garlic in the stew rather than discarding them as is often done in many versions of this fine dish. The use of Judion beans in this glorious stew is truly the secret ingredient to its Spanish authenticity. The original Asturian bean that was used in this dish was the peeled, dried fava bean indigenous to Asturias. Because of the limited production of this bean, outside of Spain the Judion bean is used instead. These magnificent buttery beans grown in northwestern Spain are huge and meaty. They are, admittedly, not easy to find but can be purchased here in the East Bay at The Spanish Table, a wonderful resource for all things genuinely Iberian, on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. We were also able to purchase Spanish chorizo and morcilla for this dish there as well. Spanish chorizo differs from the Mexican variety of chorizo with which we are most familiar in that it has been smoked and has the consistency and texture of a fine dried pepperoni. Morcilla is an absolutely delicious blood sausage that adds wonderful character to this dish… don’t be afraid of it! Any or all of these products can also be purchased on the internet and shipped directly to your home.
In a large kettle or stock pot soak overnight, covered with sufficient water to allow the beans to double in volume:
1/2 kilo (1.1 lb bag) Spanish Judion beans
Roast over an open flame, charring well:
1 large red bell pepper
Place the pepper in a plastic bag to sweat and loosen the charred skin, approximately 20 minutes. Remove the pepper from the bag and wipe the char off with your fingertips. Do not rinse under running water as this will remove much of the desired flavor:
Core and seed the pepper. Cut into strips and dice. Set aside.
Prior to cooking drain the beans and add:
1 smoked ham shank, approximately 2 lb, cut in half
Add enough fresh cold water to cover both the beans and the ham shank:
3/4 lb skirt steak, cut cross-wise into 6 – 8 pieces
8-oz pancetta, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices, unrolled then cut into 3-inch lengths
3 fresh bay leaves
Place over moderately high heat and bring to a simmer:
While the beans and meats are heating place a heavy 12-inch skillet over moderate heat and add:
2 T extra virgin olive oil
When the oil begins to shimmer add:
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, microplaned
When the onions have softened and are translucent add:
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 T hot pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
Stir to combine and saute for several additional minutes:
Transfer the onion and spice mixture to the kettle. Stir to combine and bring to a bare simmer:
Simmer gently for 1 hour so as not to compromise the integrity of the beans. Add:
6 1/2-oz Spanish chorizo, whole
8-oz morcilla, whole
Salt and pepper to taste
Continue simmering for approximately 1 additional hour. Add additional liquid if necessary to keep the beans covered and test them on occasion to assure that they are not overcooked. At the end of the cooking time remove all of the meats from the pot and set them aside on a platter. Following removal of the meats there should be just enough liquid to cover the beans without being soupy. If the liquid is excessive ladle it from the bean pot, straining it through a sieve into a saucepan. Return any solids back to the soup pot. Skim any accumulated fats from the strained liquid and set aside. Reduce the fragrant soup over moderately high heat to your preferred consistency and return it to the bean pot. While the soup is reducing, remove the meat from the shank and slice the chorizo and the morcilla. The meats can be added back to the bean pot for service or arranged on a platter or service plate to accompany the flavor-laden buttery beans in their rich, fragrant broth. Accompany this satisfying meal with a loaf of warmed and crispy sourdough bread. As a side we prepared a quick and easy saute of freshly shredded cabbage, sauteed in a turn of olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and splashes of red wine vinegar and the reserved spicy and flavorful fats captured from the meats. Absolutely delicious… Bon Appetit!
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