Fab Fabada!

Our friends, Dan and Nonie, spent part of last summer in Spain. (Or was it the summer before? Time flies…) Good friends that they are, they were thinking of us as they browsed that wonderful country’s grocery stores and open markets. And they brought us back a large shrink-wrapped plastic package containing dried white beans and several pork products — fabada Asturiana.

Beans, salt pork & blood sausage on the stove

Beans, salt pork & blood sausage on the stove

They bought one for themselves as well, and invited us over to sample it. They threw everything into a pot of water, covered it, and let it simmer for a few hours until the beans had assumed the orange of pimentón from the chorizo and general porkiness from that and the morcilla blood sausage and salt pork also included in the package. The result was another of those great traditional long-cooked bean preparations, like Southern France’s cassoulet or the fagioli of northern Italy. I was surprised I had never encountered it before, neither here nor there.

My father-in-law, Linus, travels frequently and does my market bidding for me when in countries of interest. (He emailed me the other day to ask if I wanted anything from Uganda. I asked what they ate there, and he said, “Some kind of flavorless banana paste.”) As he is often in Spain, I’ll have him bring me back beautiful canned red piquillo peppers which I stuff with manchego and pan fry; the fat, short grained bomba rice that makes the best paella; and the huge white Asturian fabes beans that form the basis of fabada.

Realizing I had all the ingredients — the beans, Spanish chorizo, a morcilla sausage and some salt pork — on hand, I decided to try making the dish from scratch. Which wasn’t much different than the packaged version — I threw everything into a pot with some water, covered it and let it simmer for a few hours. Voila! (or whatever the equivalent Spanish exclamation is!) — a beautiful pot of earthy fabada.

Unlike the complicated cassoulet of France, this dish couldn’t be easier. The only difficulty you will have in replicating it yourself, if you happen to not live near a large city with good access to Spanish charcuterie, will be accessing the chorizo and morcilla. Fortunately, online Spanish grocers like La Tienda can set you up with everything you need, including fabes beans. (In fact, you can buy a whole fabada Asturiana kit there, if you’re not into assembling the individual pieces yourself.)

If you’re skittish and don’t want to eat blood sausage, or can’t stand shopping online, I’ve found Spanish chorizo at Whole Foods in the charcuterie section. You can get salt pork anywhere, and could substitute a bratwurst or banger for the morcilla and great white northern beans for the fabes.

Fabada Asturiana with piquillo manchego tortilla

Fabada Asturiana with piquillo manchego tortilla

Like much of what you’ll eat in Spain, this is simple, wonderful food. I’ve included an easy riff on my recipe for those piquillo peppers stuffed with manchego, in the form of a tortilla españa — ingredients all available from La Tienda — in case you’d like to do a Spanish dinner at home and impress your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/buddies/mom. Enjoy!

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Fabada Asturiana
serves 4

2 cups dried large white beans
1 head garlic
1 bay leaf
8 oz. chorizo Bilbao (or other Spanish chorizo, not Mexican)
8 oz. Spanish morcilla blood sausage
4 oz. pork belly or salt pork
salt & pepper to taste

Place white beans, garlic and bay leaf in a large pot with 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 3 hours, adding more water as needed. (The beans should be just covered with the water, and they will absorb water as they cook.)

Remove garlic and bay leaf, and add sausages and pork belly, plus more water if needed (a cup at a time). Cook for another 1 hour, or until beans are tender and water has become thick and saucy. Remove sausage and pork belly and cut into pieces according to your taste. Return to pot and stir.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

*   *   *

Pre-cooking tortilla

Dazzling colors of the pre-cooking tortilla

Piquillo pepper and manchego tortilla
serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish

2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped roasted piquillo or other red pepper
2 oz. sliced manchego
1 tbsp. olive oil
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Mix eggs thoroughly in a bowl. Stir in red pepper and sliced manchego until incorporated.

Heat olive oil over medium high in a nonstick pan. Pour egg mixture into center of pan and let cook for one minute. Cover for another minute to allow egg to set. When edges appear to be beginning to brown, carefully flip the tortilla over. (You can do this simply with a spatula if you are good, or you can loosen the tortilla with the spatula, place a plate over the top, and invert the pan so the tortilla winds up on the plate. Then slide the tortilla back into the pan, already grilled side up.)

Cook for one more minute then remove from heat. Slide tortilla off the pan onto a cutting board, and cut into four quarters. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dan
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 23:23:04

    Mmmmmmm. Memories of Spain and dinners with you guys!
    Highly recommend this one!


  2. Michelle
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 01:31:46

    I’m not crazy about blood sausage—but in with all that other good stuff, I think it would be fine. I’ll definitely take a wedge of that tortilla!


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