Spanish cooks tend to be militantly chauvinistic about their cocidos, insisting that their region, province, city, neighborhood, or household makes the best. Not being bound by regional rules, I have the freedom to combine the best features of cocidos from all around Spain. In the Catalan manner, a hefty veal knuckle flavors the broth, giving it depth. From the Alicante region, I've borrowed deliciously delicate meatballs studded with pine nuts and subtly scented with lemon peel. The thin noodles belong to Castile, while green beans (instead of the usual cabbage) are an Andalusian touch. Call it a composite cocido.
This recipe makes a rather large amount, so you can enjoy the yummy dishes made with cocido leftovers (following these recipes).
For the Meatballs (Optional):
For the Vegetables and Soup:
Minted Tomato Vinaigrette:
2. Place the veal shanks, beef bones, serrano ham, bacon, beef shin, and chicken in a very large, heavy stockpot. Add 4 1/2 quarts (18 cups) water and bring to a boil over high heat. Thoroughly skim off the foam. Add the cheesecloth bags of herbs and chickpeas and the carrot and onion and bring back to a boil, skimming. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour (the liquid should barely bubble). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a large bowl and cover it with aluminum foil. Cook the broth for another 45 minutes, then transfer the ham and bacon to the bowl with the chicken. The beef and bones should still be in the pot.
3. Meanwhile, bring about 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the chorizo and blood sausage and blanch for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages to the pot with the beef. Keep the water in which you blanched the sausages at a simmer.
4. Make the meatballs, if using: Place the bread and a little of the liquid from the meat pot in a small bowl and let soak for a few minutes. Drain, squeeze out the excess liquid, and finely crumble the bread. Finely chop enough of the reserved bacon to measure 1/4 cup; set the remaining bacon aside. Place the chopped bacon, bread, ground pork, chicken sausages, egg, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but not minced or pureed. Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Wet your hands, then shape the meatball mixture into 2 1/2-inch ovals, gently tossing them between two cupped hands to give them shape. Add the meatballs to the simmering water and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to the pot with the beef and bones. Simmer until the beef shin is extremely tender, 45 minutes. The total cooking time for the meat should be 2 1/2 to 3 hours (the cocido can be prepared to this point 1 day in advance; see Notes).
5. While the meatballs and beef are simmering, prepare the vegetables and soup: Place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, add salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add the green beans to the pot and cook until the potatoes and beans are very tender, about 7 minutes. Drain the vegetables and transfer them to a large serving platter, leaving room for the chickpeas. Carefully remove the cheesecloth bag with the chickpeas from the meat pot. Working over a sieve, cut the bag open to release the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to the vegetable platter. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little of the hot broth from the meat pot, season them with salt, and keep warm, covered with aluminum foil.
6. Skim off as much fat as you can from the broth in the meat pot. Line a sieve with cheesecloth. Ladle by ladle, strain about 8 cups of the broth through the cheesecloth-lined sieve into a clean pot. (Figure about 1 cup broth per person.) Bring the strained broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes.
8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, sausages, meatballs, bacon, ham, beef, and veal to a big bowl. Keep the broth in the meat pot hot. Cut or slice all the meats, sausages, chicken, and meatballs into serving pieces, removing and discarding any gristle and bones. Arrange the meats on a large platter, sprinkle with hot broth from the meat pot, and keep warm, covered with aluminum foil.
9. Serve the cocido: Ladle the soup and the noodles into shallow soup bowls and serve this first. Follow it with the meat and the vegetables platter, accompanied by Minted Tomato Vinaigrette and a pitcher of hot broth from the meat pot for moistening the meat and the vegetables. Follow with salad to cleanse the palate.
Notes: If blood sausage is unavailable, increase the amount of chorizo to 18 ounces or substitute 6 ounces of fresh pork or turkey sausages for them.
I suggest preparing the cocido a day ahead through step 4, so you can strain and degrease the broth for the soup at your leisure. Let the cocido cool down a bit, then ladle out 8 cups of the broth from the meat pot. Strain it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a storage container. Cover and refrigerate. Pick through the meat pot, discarding the bones, the bag of herbs, and the vegetables. Remove the chickpea bag, wrap it in aluminum foil, and refrigerate. Prepare the meats as described in step 8, return them to the remaining broth in the meat pot, and store, covered, in the refrigerator. The next day, continue with the recipe, degreasing and reheating the 8 cups of broth separately from the broth in the meat pot. Reheat the bag of chickpeas in the pot with the meat, and add them to the vegetable platter as described in step 5.
Minted Tomato Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
This refreshing Andalusian-inflected sauce is delicious on grilled or boiled meat. Make it up to four hours ahead to the flavors can meld.
1. Place the tomatoes in a mini food processor and pulse until minced but not pureed. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the olive oil and the vinegar.
2. Place the garlic, cumin, and salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them into a paste. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water and stir into the tomato mixture. Add the mint and taste for seasoning, adding salt to taste. Let stand for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Serve with the cocido.
Cocido: A Second Time Around
Cocido is a big hearty family feast meant to be enjoyed for a Sunday lunch and then provide light meals for days to come. Not surprisingly, cocido leftovers are legion. Here are seven favorite ways of using them.
Baked Rice: For Spaniards, rice baked in the rich cocido broth is the ultimate comfort food. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with a few minced garlic cloves in a medium-size casserole and stir for a minute. Add a large grated tomato, cook for a few minutes more, then add some paprika. Stir in 1 cup short-grain Spanish rice or Italian risotto rice along with some chickpeas from the cocido and diced chorizo and blood sausage. Add 2 cups of strained cocido broth, some minced parsley, and a pinch of crumbled saffron; bring to a boil. Cover and bake in a 400F oven until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Uncover, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Croquettes: The first thing a Spanish cook will do with cocido leftovers is make delicious crispy, fluffy croquetas. Shred, mince, and mash enough of the beef, chicken, veal, chorizo and potatoes from the cocido to measure 1 heaping cup.
Makes about 3 dozen
Prepare these Main Ingredients:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until limp but not brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the cocido meat and stir for another minute or so, adding a little more olive oil if the skillet looks dry. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
2. Melt the butter in 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Add the meat mixture and stir until the mixture is thick and begins to pull away from the side of the skillet, about 5 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Scrape the croquette mixture into a well-oiled shallow bowl that is 6-7 inches in diameter and has straight sides. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the croquette mixture and chill until firm, at least 3 hours. (The croquette mixture can be prepared up to a day ahead.)
3. Place some flour in a shallow bowl; beat the eggs in a second shallow bowl; and place the bread crumbs in a third shallow bowl. Arrange the bowls in that order for easy breading. Wet your hands lightly, then break off a scant tablespoon of the croquette mixture. Lightly roll it in the flour, shaking off the excess, then roll it gently between your hands to form an oval. (Alternatively, you can invert the croquette mixture onto a cutting board and, using a floured knife, cut the croquettes into 1-inch cubes.) Dip the croquette in the beaten egg, then dip it generously in the bread crumbs. Transfer the croquette to a small baking sheet. Croquettes rolled in bread crumbs will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for at least a day. However, before frying them, check for cracks in the breading, lest the filling leak out. Cracks can be fixed by rolling the cracked croquettes in more bread crumbs.
4. Set a small rack over a baking sheet and line it with a double thickness of paper towels. Pour olive oil to a depth of 1 inch in an 8-inch skillet and heat it over medium-high heat to 350F; when hot, a croquette placed in the oil will sizzle on contact. Fry the croquettes 6 or 7 at a time, until deep golden on all sides, turning once and adjusting the heat so oil doesn't burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried croquettes to the paper towels to drain. Once all the croquettes have been fried, serve immediately.
Hash: This is an Andalusian specialty called ropa vieja, or old clothes (in Cuba, the name describes a shredded flank steak braised in tomato sauce). Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet with a few cloves of minced garlic. Add some chopped meats, sausages, and vegetables from the cocido and stir for a few minutes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and a little cocido broth and let simmer for a few minutes more. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with fried or poached eggs—my favorite breakfast!
Omelet: Tortilla de ropa vieja was an unforgettably succulent specialty at Bar Astelena in San Sebastian. Alas, the bar has closed, but the recipe lives on. Thinly slice 2 medium-size yellow onions and cook them in olive oil over low heat until very soft but not browned. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then toss with 2 cups of shredded beef, veal, and chicken from the cocido. In a separate bowl, beat 6 large eggs. Stir the eggs into the meat mixture, add some minced parsley, 2 tablespoons of cocido broth, and salt.
Heat 5 teaspoons of olive oil in a heavy 8-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat until it is just beginning to smoke. Pour the cocido mixture into the skillet and flatten with a spatula until the top is fairly even. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, moving and shaking the skillet, running a thin spatula around the edge. Cook in this fashion until the top is a little wet but not liquid, 6-8 minutes. Run the thin spatula under the tortilla to make sure that no part of the bottom is stuck to the skillet. Top the skillet with a rimless plate slightly larger than the skillet and, using oven mitts, quickly invert the tortilla onto the plate. If the skillet looks dry, add a little more olive oil. Carefully slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Shake the skillet to straighten the tortilla and push the edges in with the spatula. Reduce the heat to very low and cook the tortilla until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 3-4 minutes. Invert the tortilla again, as before, to cook on the first side for another minute.
Invert the tortilla onto a serving plate and pat the top with a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil. Let it cool a little, then cut the tortilla into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. To serve as a tapa, cut the tortilla into squares and serve with toothpicks.
Pringa: The very best thing one can order at an Andalusian tapas bar is a pringa: a toasted chapata roll filled with mashed-up meats and sausages from a cocido and cooked in a press. Mince skinned blood sausages and chorizo, bacon, ham, and a bit of veal or beef from the cocido and fry them briefly in a little olive oil, moistening them with a little broth. Split a small, dense flat roll (an Italian ciabatta is best), brush it with olive oil, and toast or griddle it split side down. Fill the roll with the meat mixture, sprinkling on a little hot sauce or some julienned piquillo pepper, if you wish, then heat in a sandwich press. If you don't have a sandwich press, you can improvise one by placing a flat plate weighed down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes or beans, on top of the sandwich.
Salad: Cocido leftovers also make a tasty salad called salpicon. Shred or dice about 3 cups of beef, chicken, and veal from the cocido. Add a handful of cooked chickpeas and some diced boiled potatoes and string beans. Toss with thinly sliced red onion and lots of minced parsley. Dress with a good olive oil and some sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar.
Terrine: Tear or cut the beef, chicken, bacon, and ham from the cocido into enough bite-size pieces to measure 2 cups. Toss in some capers and chopped cornichons, diced boiled potatoes and string beans, a handful of cooked chickpeas, lots of minced parsley, 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice; and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Line a 4-cup loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving some overhang, and place the mixture in it.
Place a package of gelatin and 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small saucepan to soften. Add 2 cups of strained cocido broth and heat, stirring to dissolve the gelatin. Let cool slightly, then pour the gelatin mixture over the meat mixture. Cover with aluminum foil, chill until set, and unmold onto a plate. Serve for supper with an assortment of mustards and a salad of peppery greens.
Throughout history, the agave plant has been a provider of many things -- the most commonly-known being tequila. For author Lucinda Hutson, the agave plant and its various products holds a special place in her heart, and in her book, ¡Viva Tequila!: Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures.