Thursday, March 6, 2014

3 Warm Spanish Stews (& Recipes!): Callos, Fabada, Lentejas

If you asked me what my favorite part of Spanish cooking is, I wouldn’t answer with tortilla (potato omelet), jamón (cured ham), or paella (a meat-and-veggies rice dish). What I love most about the cuisine of Spain is the country’s savory tradition of soups and stews. Usually centered around one of what I like to call the Holy Trinity of Spanish Legumes—chickpeas, white beans, and lentils—these one-pot meals cook on low heat for hours, letting the flavors of the aromatic veggies and spiced sausages combine together to create a simple, yet tasty, product.

When cooler temperatures roll around in November, restaurant cooks and abuelas alike will start preparing these warm, comforting stews that are beloved by Spaniards but under-appreciated by foreigners. Let me share with you three of the essential stews to try if you visit Spain off-season (or to try your hand at in your own kitchen). Each recipe serves 4-6 people, or one person and enough leftovers for a week!

Callos con garbanzos

Callos con garbanzos / Spanish tripe with chickpeas
(Source: Héctor Herrero)
This dish’s literal translation—“tripe with chickpeas”—may not sound very appealing, and I’ll admit, it’s not for everyone. But the stinkiness of cow stomach vanishes as it cooks for three hours with spices like cumin, black pepper, and cloves—medallions of some good Spanish chorizo help, too, of course. I’ve had heaping bowls of this stuff all over the country and the tripe meat has always been melt-in-your-mouth tender, not chewy or slimy by any means. The earthy chickpeas add a nice contrast of texture and flavor to this stew.

Ingredients
* 500g tripe
* 1 lemon
* splash of vinegar
* 250g dried chickpeas
* 2 tablespoons callos spices (cumin, pepper, cloves, etc.)
* 2 chorizo sausages
* 1 onion
* 4 garlic cloves
* 1 bay leaf

Directions
1) Soak the chickpeas overnight for at least 12 hours, changing the water every 4-6 hours.
2) Let the tripe soak for an hour or so in water with some vinegar and/or lemon quarters. Make sure to clean it vigorously under running water, cleaning off the slime.
3) Chop the clean tripe, bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat and pour out the water. They are now ready to cook.
4) Add to the tripe the chickpeas, spices, chorizo, chopped onion, garlic, and bay leaf, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then let cook over low heat for 3 hours until the tripe and chickpeas are tender.
5) Slice the chorizo, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Fabada asturiana

Fabada asturiana / Asturian white bean stew
(Source: Julio López)
Considered the national dish of the Asturias region along Spain’s northern coast, the Asturian white bean stew is beautiful in its simplicity. At its most essential, the fabada is simply large white beans cooked with the three elements that comprise a compango asturiano: one link of chorizo, one blood pudding sausage, and a hunk of thick bacon…and that’s it. The type of dried white bean usually used is called judiones de la Granja, the same kind used in the local stew of Segovia to the south, or the related fabes de la Granja. But while a basic fabada is just beans + meat, many Spaniards like to add aromatic flavorings like garlic, bay leaves, smoked paprika, and even saffron. After *ahem* stewing for several hours, the white beans make the stock thick and creamy, and the meat turns the soup an attractive bright orange.

Ingredients
* 500g dried large white beans
* 1 chorizo sausage
* 1 blood pudding sausage (morcilla)
* 1 hunk of thick bacon (panceta or tocino)
* 4 garlic cloves
* 1 bay leaf

Directions
1) Soak the beans overnight for at least 12 hours, changing the water every 4-6 hours.
2) Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
3) Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 3 hours until the beans are creamy and tender.
4) Slice the meat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Lentejas

Lentejas / Spanish lentil stew
(Source: Xurxo Martínez)
If my personal comfort food is Mom’s meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes, then every Spaniard’s comfort food is lentil stew. (Although apparently it’s not everyone’s, since there’s a rhyme that goes lentejas, comida de viejas, si quieres las comes, y si no, las dejas, “lentil stew: grandma’s cooking; if you want ‘em, then eat ‘em, but if not, leave ‘em.”) I tend to make lentejas a couple times a month because it’s cheap, healthy, tasty, and a fast and easy recipe to make. What more could you ask for in a meal? Basically this stew consists of boiled green lentils, sausages, and root and aromatic veggies. But the two keys to a good pot of lentejas are some good Spanish sausages—which will add can’t-wait-for-seconds savoriness—and a small potato—which will help thicken the whole broth. Lentil stew is also the ultimate Spanish leftover dish that you will often find in lunchtime break rooms across the country.

Ingredients
* 250g or 2 cups dried lentils
* 1 chorizo sausage
* 1 blood pudding sausage (morcilla)
* 5 carrots
* 1 celery stalk
* 1 leek
* 1 potato
* 4 garlic cloves
* 1 bay leaf

Directions
1) Chop all the vegetables.
2) Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
3) Turn the heat down to low and simmer for up to 1 hour until the lentils are no longer firm.
4) Slice the meat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

What’s your favorite part of Spanish cooking? Do you pass over lentejas or look forward to their leftovers? Comment in the discussion thread below!
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