Spanish Comfort Food
When thinking of Spanish cuisine, people naturally jump to paella. While it’s true that paella is delicious and widely popular in Spain, it’s often considered summer fare. So what do the Spanish eat for great hearty comfort food? Cocido
The tradition of Cocido has its roots in a Sephardic Jewish dish called Adafina, which was also eaten by the Moors, while they occupied Spain. Adafina would be set to cook on the eve of the Sabbath to be eaten on the following day. Like many of the Spanish versions, its star ingredient was the chickpea, which was cooked for many hours with pieces of lamb.
Cocido literally means cooked or boiled, but the name doesn’t do the dish justice. Its most basic elements are a variety of meats and some sort of legume, most commonly chickpeas, slow cooked over many hours. From region to region and house to house the recipe can be quite different. In Madrid, Cocido Madrileño is a chickpea stew cooked with numerous different pork products like chorizo, trotters or blood sausage. It stews for ages and is finally served in three courses: first the broth with noodles added, then the chickpeas, and finally the meat. In the region of Cantabria, Cocido Montañés is a one dish white bean stew. In the province of Burgos they make Cocido Castellano, adding more lamb, which is a delicacy in the region, harkening back to the dish’s far flung origins.
No matter what form it takes, it is a hearty, soulful dish perfect for cold and rainy fall or winter days. Which brings me to today: October 12th, Spanish National Holiday. It’s a long weekend, but it’s 50F and rainy. So, instead of resisting the gloom and trying to spend Sunday out and about, we made Cocido!
This is a dish where you use what you happen to have around or find that day at the butcher. It’s common to use ham bones left over from a spectacular Serrano Ham, or commonly wasted pieces like trotters and ears. We happened to have a fresh pig’s ear lying around (hey, we live in Spain, and maybe I read the forecast earlier in the week and asked the butcher to throw one in with our order just in case), some adobo rib tips, and a serrano ham bone. I recently got a new crock pot so we did it in there, but simmering it in a pot would work just as well.
(serves 6-7 – and freezes well)
fresh pig’s ear
1 lb adobo rib tips
a serrano ham bone (or ham hock for instance)
*In lieu of these you really could use anything you wanted like: chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), chicken, lamb, beef or any mix thereof.
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 small carrots
a little salt and pepper
a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 pounds chick peas
Soak chickpeas overnight. Put everything in the pot (crock pot in our case) and simmer until the meat is falling apart and the chickpeas are soft. Serve. Yep; it’s that easy.
We did it in the slow cooker, so it was simmering about 14 hours (overnight for Sunday lunch) on low. The meat was ready before the beans, so I took it out and let it cool to de-bone and shred to reincorporate for easy eating. We are a no fuss no muss family, so, even though this most resembled Cocido Madrileño, traditionally eaten in three courses, we ate it as a one plate stew. If you wanted to do the three courses, you would pull out the broth and cook some thin short noodles in it, then serve the chick peas, and finally the meat. If there is any leftover meat they often make croquetas, but that’s a blog for another day!