|Fabada--maybe the best bean dish in the world.|
I like all kinds of beans, but possibly my favorite bean dish is fabada asturiana, beans and sausages cooked in the style of Asturias. Asturias, in the chill northern Cantabrian coast, is noted for its cheeses (such as blue Cabrales), its fabulous seafood and this singular bean dish. Fabada is so popular that it turns up all over Spain. Sort of as Boston baked beans are not limited to Boston.
The proper beans for fabada are Asturian-grown fabes. These are extra-large white kidney beans that cook up creamy and tender. (They can be ordered in the US from http://www.tienda.com/) If these are not available, however, I suggest substituting butter beans or cannellini beans.
|Asturian smoked morcilla.|
For an insider's view of Asturias, the sausages and fabada, have a look at this site http://www.whereisasturias.com/?p=6602, with a video clip, produced by Jeffrey Weiss, whose book, CHARCUTERIA--THE SOUL OF SPAIN--comes out in the fall.
The beans need to be soaked for 12 hours (or overnight) before cooking. I have extremely hard water, so I use a pinch of baking soda in the water or else bottled water with low mineral content to correct the hardness. Otherwise, the beans never get really tender. Drain the soaked beans and put them to cook in fresh water.
Fabada is best cooked in a cazuela, a wide earthenware casserole, but any shallow pan will work. Add water to a depth of two fingers above the beans. Keep the beans barely covered with liquid so that the skins don’t split.
|Savory beans with sausages.|
Asturian Beans and Sausages
Serves 4 to 6.
|Soaking swells the beans (left).|
8 ounces lean bacon or panceta, in one piece
Ham bone or a chunk of cured ham
8 ounces chorizo sausage (preferably smoked Asturian)
8 ounces morcilla sausage (preferably smoked Asturian)
2 bay leaves
Pinch of crushed saffron
Salt and pepper
Drain the beans and put them in a cazuela. Blanch the bacon in boiling water for 2 minutes and drain. Add it to the beans. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off the froth.
Add the piece of ham, chorizo, morcilla and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and skim again. Add saffron, dissolved in a little liquid.
Cover and cook until beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours, adding cold water as necessary so beans are always covered with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Don’t stir the beans, but shake the casserole from time to time. Let the fabada rest 15 minutes before serving. Use scissors to cut the bacon, ham and sausages into bite-sized pieces.