Celebrating Blood Sausage with Cocido
Some days, everything goes right: the sun is shining, you can ride your bike around town carefree after a winter full of slow ice-patch vigilance, you’ve just eaten a fine lunch and there’s nothing in particular to do that afternoon. You roll into your favorite butcher shop — just to say hello — and suddenly your day gets even better because staring out from behind the butcher’s glass is a shining, garnet mound of fresh blood sausage.
Last Saturday was just such a day for Martha and me; our ride to Clancey’s Meat and Fish was rewarded with several links of blood sausage. Kristin and crew make it fresh a few times a year but it only stays in the display case briefly before it is frozen — blood sausage is not especially shelf stable. The good news is even if you missed it fresh last weekend, Clancey’s probably has all the frozen blood sausage your heart desires.
Desires, but for what? I certainly couldn’t reach back into my personal culinary heritage; my parents never cooked the stuff — in fact I’m quite sure that my dad will read this post with a mixture of horror and disgust. The Spanish, on the other hand, are great lovers of morcilla; it is a mainstay of at least a couple of hearty stews (fabada asturiana and cocido madrileño) and also finds its way into various tapas and pintxos.
I took the inspiration for this dish from the latter of the stews, the venerable cocido. (I was actually leaning toward fabada, but can you believe the Wedge doesn’t carry fabes asturianas?) Inspiration is all I took, though — I wasn’t interested in buying the many required meats or serving each pot ingredient as a separate course. So before any Madrileños arrive decrying my affront to their cultural patrimony, let me be clear: this not an authentic cocido madrileño. It is, however, a great way to highlight the flavor of blood sausage and a nice stew for a cold winter night, of which I am sure there are only a few left this year.
- 1# dried chickpeas
- 1 ham hock
- 2 bay leaves
- Chicken stock
- 1 T olive oil
- ½ onion plus 2 chopped medium onions
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½# blood sausage
- ¼ cup parsley, minced
- Salt and pepper
Soak the chickpeas overnight, or quick soak by placing in a pot with heavily salted water, bringing to a boil and then turning off the heat, covering, and allowing to sit for one hour.
After the beans are soaked, drain and rinse them. Place in a stockpot and add the ham hock, bay leaves and half onion. Add chicken stock and water to cover generously — you will want plenty of broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer until beans are almost completely soft. Drain chickpeas, reserving cooking liquid, and remove ham hock. Discard the bay leaves and onion.
When ham hock is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones, fat and gristle. Shred the meat and reserve; discard the rest.
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables soften and start to brown. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cooked chickpeas, reserved ham, and enough reserved cooking liquid to just cover the beans. If you don’t have enough cooking liquid, add water or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Lightly — lovingly — nestle the sausages on top of the stew and simmer gently, partially covered, until the sausage is warmed through and the beans are as soft as you like — maybe 20 minutes.
To serve, remove the sausage links from the pot and slice. Return the sausage slices to the stew along with the parsley and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve in shallow bowls with plenty of crusty bread on the side to soak up the broth.