Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fabada Asturiana

Fabada is a rustic Spanish bean and sausage stew. Pretty straightforward really, particularly if you invest in one of the ready-made fabada kits that Xixón Café sells at their meat counter. As you can see, they pack in the beans--fabas, a special Spanish variety not on the Publix shelves--a thick slice of Serrano ham, a couple links of chorizo and a link of morcilla de Burgos (a pork blood sausage with a lot of rice in the filling). There's a bit more to a proper fabada than that. They really ought to include the saffron and paprika, I think. Also, those beans about double in volume during an overnight soak so that sausage to bean ratio is a bit skimpy. I scrounged in my freezer and came up with a slice of ham hock and a couple more chorizo links--one Spanish, although a mass market brand, and the other of indeterminate South American ancestry. I really should improve my freezer labeling habits.

Anyway, after soaking the beans, I threw them into my slow cooker along with the Serrano ham, a few cloves of garlic, half an onion and half a green pepper. A lot of recipes didn't include these but you've got to have some vegetables. Those that did include them didn't agree on whether to chop and sauté them or just throw them in whole. I split the difference. I added a cup of stock and enough water to cover, about four more cups.

That simmered for a couple hours until the beans showed signs of tenderness. (An aside here: there was an article in the New York Times recently recounting a Mexican recipe that dispenses with soaking the beans and adds salt at the start and ends with tender beans after just two hours of simmering. It goes against all my experience but the author says it turned out fine. That author isn't Harold McGee so there's no explanation of why it turned out fine when we've all dealt with beans that have stubbornly refused to cook. Maybe I'll do some experiments myself.) Then I pricked the sausages with a fork so they wouldn't explode when cooking and added them to the pot along with good-sized scoops of sweet and smoked paprika and a pinch of saffron.

After another 45 minutes of cooking, the beans were tender and the sausages cooked through. I removed the sausages and ham and sliced them up. Some recipes don't simmer the sausages with the beans; instead they slice and fry them and add them at the last minute. That would add extra flavor to the meat while robbing it from the broth. I'd rather go the other way.

I had hoped more of the liquid would have boiled away at this point--fabada's supposed to be a thick stew, not soup--but it hadn't so I removed as much as I could and boiled it way down on he the stove top. I mashed the beans up a bit, as most recipes call for, returned the concentrated liquid and the meat, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, topped with a little parsley and served.

Fabada is typically served with cidra and crusty bread, but I haven't got either today. For the cider I'm substituting a bottle of a spicy light ale and for the bread, a second bottle.

I've made my share of bean and sausage pots and this is certainly one of them. The variety of sausages is nice, I'll give it that. And the lack of heat in the spiciness is an interesting angle on the dish. It is quite tasty, but it's beans and sausages, of course it's tasty. Otherwise, fabada is rustic and hearty and perfect for the sort of cool evening Miami doesn't provide so often. I got pretty lucky to cook this just as the cool spell hit.

These beans have a pleasantly light and complex flavor. I wonder if the slow-cooker's low even simmer made a difference, or if it's the type of bean or if it's just that I've for once bought something other than whatever junk the supermarket has. I'll have to give those trendy heirloom beans a try and see if they can match this quality. I may have just ruined myself for the normal version of yet another staple. It gets inconvenient and expensive being a snob.


LaDivaCucina said...

There are so many varieties of these sorts of soups and I find that any kind of legume or bean stew with sausage is so comforting and deelish for winter.

I wanted to comment about adding the sausage to cook with the beans: I've done that in the past and found that tends to overcook the sausage and leeches out the fat and flavor and leaves me with some blech sausage. I can't remember which sausage I used (I think it was some kind of smoked sausage like keilbasa) but I remembered I wouldn't do it again. I either use some sort of ham or pork bone to flavor the broth or cheat and start the soup off with chicken broth! I wonder if it made a difference to you using the slow cooker versus my Dutch oven on the stove?

billjac said...

My sausages were on the well-done side, but they retained a lot of flavor. Some fat did leach out but the stew needed some distributed fat so that's a plus. I think the slow cooker did help. It's hard, particularly with an electric stove, to keep the temperature low and steady the way the slow cooker did. Putting the sausages in for under an hour helped too.