Saturday, August 20, 2016

White Bean Stew (Alubias Blancas)

We had a small cooking class in my home kitchen this past week that was more or less a get together to learn knife skills and techniques. In order to fill out the lunch we shared, I'd prepared a stew from a wonderful cookbook I picked up at Powell's last winter - The Basque Table. The recipes are amazingly simple and prepares dishes differently than I've seen from other sources but each dish I've made so far has been nothing less than wonderful. I've tailored this recipe just a touch for a smaller crowd.
Note: I'd recommend using Spanish pimentón if you can get it as it lends a wonderful smoky flavor to the stew that paprika doesn't have. But paprika will do fine if that's what you can get or prefer.

1 pound dried navy beans (any white beans will do)
1 leek, white part only, cleaned well and halved lengthwise
2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into quarters
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon pimentón dulce (sweet/mild) or sweet paprika

Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl covered by 1-2 inches of cold water. Drain the beans in a colander or strainer and discard the soaking water.
Put the drained beans in a large pot and add the leek and peppers along with enough cold water to cover everything by 2-3 inches. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil over high heat and cook rapidly for 2-3 minutes carefully skimming any foam from the surface as it appears over the next several minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until the beans are fork tender. You can add about 1/4 cup of cold water to the pot every 30 minutes or so while cooking to help promote softness in the beans.
About 15 minutes before the beans are done, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft but before it colors. Add the pimentón (or paprika) to the skillet and cook, stirring to fully incorporate it into the onion, and allow to cook for about 2 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat and add the contents to the pot with the cooking beans.
Once you have stirred in the onion mix into the pot, remove it from heat. At this point, you can decide to either leave the cooked leek and pepper or fish them out of the pot before serving. Allowing the stew to sit for an hour or two in order to marry the flavors is ideal but you can also serve right away. This is also a great dish to cool and reheat to serve at a later time.

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