Olive Me Blog

Teresa Parker blogs about restaurants, recipes, and the reasons why she's in love with Spain's food and culture.


Oh, Robert, sorry to have strayed so far on this pork-laden path. I suppose a vegan version of this could include a converse sneaker in place of the ham hock... but hang in there with me and some vegetarian-happy recipes will be logged here, honest, the Catalans love very plain herb-scented broths, for instance...

Yesterday's "One Pot" column in the New York Times featured cocido, Madrid's classic stew of garbanzos simmered in a rich, hammy broth. The recipe is from Tía Pol, the Spanish restaurant in Chelsea which will reportedly have cocido on the menu through March. Considered a madrileño dish, cocido is really one of those concoctions that gets made everywhere, with slight variations -- chicken in Barcelona, blood sausage in Burgos, oxtail in France (where they know how to say pot-au-feu).

Most recipes mingle various meats (mostly on the bone for the simmering) though the Tia Pol version is all pork. Their recipe doesn't include the usual winter vegetable components either. I really think it needs turnips, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage or some combination thereof. Traditionalists serve the stew in courses: first the broth, then the meats and vegetables — a presentation that disturbs crispy vegetable types but is beautiful in a long ago and far away way. Alexandra Raij, an owner of Tia Pol tells Times readers that the ancient name for this soup, olla poderida "comes from poder, which means strength... it's a dish that gives you strength and lasting nourishment."

But humble as it now seems, this stew used to represent a kind of lavishness. Anything enriched with so much meat would have meant been for the "haves" — a different kind of poder. Over the years, olla poderida became olla podrida a name by which this stew is still affectionately known in spite of the fact that it has the distressing meaning of "rotten pot."

Here's the recipe, modified just a little to make way for chicken and vegetables. Nothing technical about it, but it's a slow food indeed: you soak the garbanzos overnight and then the stew needs to simmer a total of about three hours. Many Spanish cooks prepare cocido on Saturday for a Sunday meal. You can chill and skim some fat off it that way too.

Serves 4

12 ounces dried chickpeas, covered by 2 inches of water and soaked overnight
1 large leek
1 pound good quality slab bacon, in two large pieces, tough skin peeled off
4 “baby back” pork ribs
1/2 chicken cut into 4 pieces or 4 chix legs or thighs
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small smoked ham hock, about 6 ounces, or a 2-ounce prosciutto end
1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled
1/2 bulb garlic, unpeeled, ends trimmed
4 carrots, peeled, one left whole, the other 3 cut in thirds
8 small red potatoes
1/2 head cabbage, in two large pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound Spanish-style chorizo
Extra virgin olive oil for garnish and crusty bread for sopping up juices

Drain chickpeas and place in a large stockpot.

Keeping root end intact, trim leek of roots and dark green leaves. Slice in half lengthwise, submerge in cold water, and rinse thoroughly. Add to stockpot with bacon, baby back ribs, 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, ham hock, onion, garlic, the whole carrot, paprika and bay leaf. Cover with water by 2 inches (about 6 cups).

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour, occasionally skimming foam. Add 1 cup cold water and the chicken pieces.

Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour more. Add 1/2 cup cold water and the chorizo, the remaining carrots, the cabbage, and the potatoes. Return to a low simmer and cook until all ingredients are very tender, about 30 minutes more.

Using a slotted spoon and kitchen tongs, carefully remove meats, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprig, onion, the whole carrot, and the leek. Discard ham hock, garlic, bay leaf and thyme sprig.

When the carrot, onion, and leek are cool enough to handle, peel onion and purée in a blender with the carrot, leek, 3/4 cup chickpeas and 1 cup cooking liquid.

Cut bacon into 2-inch pieces and chorizo into 1-inch pieces. Return meats and vegetable purée to stockpot and stir gently to combine. Reheat, and adjust salt if necessary.

Ladle into large soup plates, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. If desired, serve with crusty bread for sopping up sauce.