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Rapha Cooks: Chorizo with Chickpeas
Photos and Recipe by Matt Card
Better Living Through Cured Pork
Running so late in the calendar—and dovetailing with another highly anticipated season here in Portland (which seems to start earlier and earlier each year), I had a hard time mustering much day-to-day enthusiasm for the stage race. Sure, I watched snippets of Tivo’ed stages, but I’d fast forward past the dusty hills with consonant-rich Basque names and look-alike, whippet-thin Spanish racers straining for local glory to the final minutes of hairball sprints and breakaway holdouts.
So while I may not give much attention to the Vuelta a España, I compensate in the kitchen. I’m a big fan of Spanish food. Not so much the fancy cuisine for which Spanish cooks are currently setting the pace as the gutsy, rustic stuff thick with spice, garlic and most importantly pork.
That Spanish pork comes in myriad forms, though the most addictive might be one of the most common: chorizo sausage. Not to be confused with the fresh, crumbly Mexican stuff, Spanish chorizo is a cured, dense-textured sausage saturated with garlic and paprika (the heady smoked sort known as pimenton). It is greasy, rich, and I can eat it until I burst. In the states, the one nationally distributed brand is Palacios, which is quite good. Stock up when you find it—it keeps well tucked away in the refrigerator and you’ll likely blow through any stock you might have (if you have trouble finding it locally, consider ordering from Spanish Table.
While it can be eaten “neat’ as tapas—perhaps splashed with sherry—I think it’s at its best when used as a flavoring agent, say with shellfish or, better yet, beans. Chorizo tastes great with any legume, but I think the ideal paring is meaty chickpeas. The dish I make more often than not is simple: chickpeas briefly stewed with plenty of chorizo, a few aromatics, spinach, and a handful of diced tomatoes to cut the richness.
While canned chickpeas have their place in the kitchen, this dish is not one of them. Fresh-cooked dried chickpeas have a nutty flavor and meaty texture far removed from anything in a can. Cooking the chickpeas couldn’t be any simpler. Simply add some rough-chopped aromatics (onion, carrot, and garlic) bring to a simmer, skim the scum off the top, and let the pot bubble away over a low flame. Within an hour or so, they should be tender. Make sure to save the broth (but ditch the spent veg)—it possesses a deep savor and satisfying viscosity. they generate their own broth.
The dish is a meal onto itself, but I like to pair it with a clarifying salad to cut the chorizo’s richness (pork fat has a way of lingering on the palate) Peppery arugula does the job, especially when combined with bittersweet blood oranges, almonds, and a sharp sherry vinaigrette. All classic Spanish ingredients, the components balance each other’s flavors and textures well.
When shopping for sherry vinegar, be willing to spend a little more for better flavor. Look for at least five-year-old vinegar; anything younger and its raw flavor will be harsh and acrid.
Braised Chickpeas and Chorizo Sausage
Serves 4 to 6
Dried chickpeas, and the broth they generate, are crucial to the success of the dish; I cannot recommend using canned chickpeas. Chickpeas can be cooked up to four days ahead and stored in their liquid in the refrigerator. Serve accompanied by crusty bread.
If you don’t already own a heavyweight Dutch oven, I strongly encourage that you do. My favorite would be a six to seven-quart enameled cast iron pot from Staub, A French manufacturer (They are far more durable than other brands, like Le Creuset, which chip easily). They aren’t cheap, but consider it a lifetime investment (and unlike bikes, they only improve with age).
2 cups dried chickpeas, sorted and soaked overnight
1 carrot, quartered
2 medium onions, 1 peeled and quartered, 1 minced
10 garlic cloves, 6 peeled and smashed, 4 sliced thin
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3-inch thick slices
1 teaspoon sweet or hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
4 ounces baby spinach
2 to 4 ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped coarse
1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving
1. In large saucepan, combine chickpeas, carrot, quartered onion, smashed garlic, bay leaf, large pinch salt, and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, skimming off and discarding any foam. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until chickpeas are tender, 1 to 2 hours (adding additional water as necessary to keep covered.) Discard onion, carrot, and bay leaf.
2. Meanwhile, cook chorizo in large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fat has rendered, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
3. Add minced onion and pinch salt to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and dramatically reduced in volume, about 8 to 14 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic and beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add paprika and cook until darkened in color, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas and 2 to 3 cups broth; increase heat and bring to simmer. Reduce to low, simmer 10 minutes and add chorizo, thyme, and spinach. Stir and cook until spinach wilts, adjust seasoning, and serve topped with tomatoes and accompanied by lemon wedges.
Arugula Salad with Sherry-Honey Vinaigrette, Oranges, and Almonds
Serves 4 to 6
Look for a 5 to 7-year old sherry vinegar and a mild-flavored honey. Allowing the shallots to macerate for 10 minutes softens its texture and mellows its sharp flavor. Regular oranges and hazelnuts may be substituted or a blend of frisee and baby spinach can replace the arugula. Make sure to trim away all the white pith from the oranges; otherwise they may taste bitter.
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (see note)
4 teaspoons mild-flavored honey
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
8 to 10 cups baby arugula
3 blood oranges, rind and pith sliced away, halved pole-to-pole, and cut crosswise into ½-inch thick half moons
½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1. Whisk together shallot, vinegar, honey, large pinch salt, and black pepper to taste in mixing bowl. Allow to sit 10 minutes, then whisk in oil until fully emulsified. Adjust seasoning to taste.
2. In large bowl, dress greens with vinaigrette. Divide equally among plates and top with almonds and oranges; serve immediately.
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