Protein Plus and Extremely Delicious Fabada


Photo Credit: Javier Lastras

One of the most popular dishes throughout Spain is Fabada Astusiana, often simply referred to as fabada.  Fabada is a bean casserole that is rich yet simple, flavorful, and easy on the budget. Fabada, boasts of many variations, but it is usually eaten during the cold winter or autumn nights, accompanied by good crusty bread and red wine or cider.

Fabada Cousins

Countries all over the world have their own version of it, and maybe that is why easy-to-like fabada never seems strange even to people who taste it for the first time.

In My Kitchen in Spain’sFabada, Maybe the Best Beans in the World”, Janet Mendel says, “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…”

Americans have their Boston baked beans, the French have their cassoulet, and Mexicans have their frijoles charros. First-time diners will take to it as if it were something they have always had on their tables.

Creating this Dish for Your Table

The basic ingredients for a good fabada include white beans, soaked overnight, pork shoulder, bacon, morcilla (black pudding), chorizo, and saffron. All these ingredients are easy to find; Latino stores usually have chorizo, saffron, and morcilla, also referred to as black pudding.

If you are quite the purist, you would use fava beans (kidney beans), blood sausage, and ham hock as your meats; these are the usual contents of fabada from Asturias. More liberal cooks, however, used other beans such as cannellini beans or butter beans.

Mendel adds, “Fabada may be one of the few dishes in Spanish cuisine that contains no olive oil. Panceta, ham bone and two kinds of sausages provide the flavor package. Asturias, with its damp maritime climate, produces chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage) that are, unusually in Spanish charcuteria, smoke-cured. If these traditional sausages are not available, use regular cooking chorizo and morcilla, but add a spoonful of pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika) to the beans as they cook…”

Fabada Ingredients and Procedure

You have start your fabada at least 14 hours before you serve it on your table because everything begins with a pound of white beans soaked for at least 12 hours. When your beans are totally rehydrated and puffed up, you are ready to cook this best seller.

In a contribution to the online food magazine Food and Wine, José Andrés shares his recipe for fabada, calling it “Asturian Pork and Beans”. His is a cook-ahead recipe that calls for a large onion, a head of garlic, a pound of white dried beans (soaked overnight), a ham hock (meaty), a half –pound slab of bacon, and half a pound of chorizos. He also uses saffron, ground paprika, salt, and freshly ground pepper to season this rich dish.

Basically, to cook fabada, you simply boil everything until the beans and the meats are soft. However, some cooks like to give the beans a good start by as much as half an hour before adding the meats.

A Few Fine Points

Fabada experts have some pointers to share with beginners who want to cook this dish. To mix the ingredients while everything is cooking, they recommend shaking the pot instead of stirring the beans and the meat; this prevents the beans from getting all crushed and mushy.

One expert suggests that you test the water in your kitchen. If you have hard water, a bit of baking soda in the water used to boil the beans will shorten the time needed to soften them. Another expert says that beans should not be covered in too much water so that the skins don’t split. Instead, keep the water at about two inches above the beans and just refill as necessary.

The meats are best boiled whole and cut with a pair of scissors just before serving. The meat from the ham hock should be pulled off gently and cut into large pieces. This flavorful creation can be kept in the refrigerator for a week and reheated just before serving. O round off this one-dish meal, Jose Andres recommends serving it with a “hearty berry-flavored red from Ribera del Duero” – something that will “stand up to the stew’s meaty, smoky flavors.”

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