The most wonderful bean stew from the North of Spain cooked on a live campfire. Adapted for live-fire cooking by Jonah Miller of Huertas; original recipe appears in The New Spanish: Bites, Feasts and Drinks by Jonah Miller and Nate Adler.
SERVES 4 TO 6
2 cups dried fabe, emergo, corona or other large white beans
1 head garlic
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon, olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 bay leaves
1 ham bone or smoked ham hock (optional)
2 links fresh Spanish chorizo
2 links precooked morcilla (blood sausage) (optional)
8 ounces slab bacon, whole
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
salt to taste
- The night before preparing the fabada, place the dried beans in large bowl, cover with 5 cups of water and refrigerate. The next day, drain the beans, which will have doubled in size.
- Build a fire and allow the wood to burn for an hour or so, until you can break it down and disperse the heat. Untreated lump charcoal is a great ingredient, alongside the wood of your choice, to help maintain a consistent heat over a long period of time. Place a swing set or umbrella over your fire to hang your sausages and bacon, so they smoke without direct heat.
- Peel the onion, keeping the root end attached and cut the onion in half, top-to-bottom so that the root base keeps the halves intact. Wash the carrot and cut that in half the long way. Rinse the head of garlic, and cut the cloves in half, horizontally so that in remains intact.
- Place the beans in a cast iron Dutch oven (or similar vessel), and add enough water to cover the beans by 4 to 6 inches. Add the half-cup of olive oil, paprika, onions, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, and ham bone (if using).
- Nestle your Dutch oven next to the fire directly on the coal and ashes and under where you will hang the bacon and sausages so the pork fat can drip into the pot. Pile some white and black coals around the pot for a constant heat.
- Bring the beans to a bare simmer, and cook for 1 to 3 hours. Cook time for beans varies widely, but cooking them slowly and gently helps ensure that they remain intact when they are tender enough to enjoy.
- Once the beans are at a simmer, hang the sausages and bacon over the fire. The morcilla will need the least direct heat, since it’s precooked, and the bacon the most heat, because it’s the largest piece. You’ll need to watch the fire and meats; if they aren’t cooking as well as you’d like, bring the meat closer to the heat by lowering the height of your swing set where the meat is hanging. Or, for a faster cook, add a grill grate close to the fire and cook the meat over direct heat. You will lose some of the fat that would have dripped into the Dutch oven, but your meat will have a nice crust. Just be sure that it doesn’t overcook.
- Open fire cooking is a dance, so be attentive and have fun trying different fire pit settings. Just be careful and wear heat resistant gloves if it helps you.
- When the meat is cooked through, remove from the grill and hold in a warm spot around the edge of the fire.
- When the beans are tender and no longer chalky inside but the skins have not split, remove the beans from the heat, season to taste with salt (you’ll need a few tablespoons).
- To serve, slice the meats and either serve alongside the beans or mix the meat directly into the beans.
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