Cocido–Spanish Comfort Food

If you had your choice between cooking with anything you wanted or being presented a limited pantry, which would you choose? Which do you think would make you more creative?

Just last week I was talking to someone about this very topic.  We both agreed that cooking straight from the pantry without making a trip to the store usually resulted in something more creative than if we dreamed up a menu and shopped for it specifically.  That’s exactly what I ended up doing on New Year’s last year.  I got home from work in the mid-evening and was hungry.  I wasn’t going out for the evening so I needed to fix something since most places were either closed or featuring special New Year’s menus.  My only choice was to open the cupboard and see what I found inspiring.  The result was this Spanish-style “Cocido” or stew featuring chorizo sausage, clams and chickpeas.

Now I know you’re probably wondering why in the world am I cooking and writing about stews when the heat is topping record highs?  I know, it does seem a bit weird but the main reason is that I’ve been toying with ideas for a new hands-on cooking class featuring Spanish cuisine.  I have been asked by a cookware company to do a series of Tapas demonstration presentations during the July Gift & Retail Show in Atlanta so I’ve had Spanish food on the mind the past few weeks.  Thus it seemed like a good time to work on creating a new hands-on class featuring regional specialties of Spain.  So…you can either try this recipe on your own, or wait and join me for a hands-on cooking class in Savannah, GA. (Personally, I think you should do both!)

Cocidos are the creation of Spanish Sephardic Jews who needed to put the Sabbath meal on to cook the day before and leave it alone until it was time to eat.   The word “cocido” comes from the Spanish “cocer” meaning to cook.  One common ingredient amongst most cocidos is the use of chickpeas.  Chickpeas were brought to the Iberian peninsula by the Moors, during their occupation of the region.  While they’re now regarded as a healthy and versatile food item, chickpeas have traditionally been regarded as a food for the poor.

Chorizo & Clam Cocido 2 - C

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Spanish-Style Chorizo, Chickpea & Clam Stew (Cocido)

I created this stew one evening when I was hungry and had to work with just what I had in my pantry. Sometimes that’s the best way to be creative! Not everyone may keep canned clams and vacuum-packed chorizo sausage on hand but if you do, this is a quick, hearty, and easy stew/soup that you can make in a short amount of time. The flavor base of this is what is known as a “sofrito” in Spanish cuisine and is usually used as flavor base for Paella and many other dishes. You could add shortgrain rice to this stew to make it heartier if you wanted. Taking it one step further, gently simmer firm-fleshed fish, shrimp, mussels, and calamari in it at the very end to be more of a paella-style soup. Serve with some crusty bread and a salad and you’ve got a nice meal for a cold evening

Yield: 1 quart

1 cup ¼” diced Spanish Chorizo sausage, (be sure to peel paper casing before dicing)
½ medium yellow onion, diced ¼”
½ medium green bell pepper, diced ¼”
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (may use regular paprika if smoked isn’t available)
1 tablespoon chopped pimento stuffed green olives
1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained
½ cup white wine
1 6.5-oz can chopped clams with juice
2 cups chicken stock
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, divided use
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Place a 2-quart saucepan over high heat and heat until heat can be felt radiating off the bottom of the pan when your hand is held about 6-8 inches above the surface. Add the diced chorizo sausage and cook and render out the fat. Turn down heat if necessary to prevent burning. When the fat has rendered from the sausage and it’s nicely browned, use a slotted spoon and remove from the pan. If the chorizo is too lean to render, cook it in a little olive oil.

Add the diced onions and bell pepper to the pan. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until softened. Add the garlic, oregano, olives, and capers to the vegetables. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and everything is quite fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and scrape up any cooked on bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the reserved chorizo, the clams with juice, chicken stock, chickpeas, and HALF of the can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer.

While the mixture is coming to a simmer, place an immersion blender inside the can of remaining diced tomatoes and puree. Add pureed tomatoes to the stew and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes or until nicely thickened. When the stew has cooked to a nice consistency, add the sherry vinegar, mix in and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, or sherry vinegar.

Serve garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Variation:

Make this soup more of a hearty entrée by poaching diced firm-fleshed fish, shrimp, and/or calamari in the finished soup for about 5 minutes before serving.

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