It’s the first official day of summer, and the heat has definitely arrived to Madrid in that can’t-sleep-at-night, legs-are-always-swollen, don’t-even-feel-like-eating way. It’s currently 37º C (98.6º F), and I’m not happy about it.
What do Spaniards do to remedy this problem? They whitewash walls, keep the windows open to get the breeze going, and eat gazpacho, which is a refreshing tomato soup that is served cold to fight those summer lulls in appetite. Unfortunately, I simply can’t stand it.
So what did I decide to do? I asked my Spanish mom to teach me how to make cocido, which is a very typical Madrilenian
dish meal bomb. It’s most appropriate during the winter, because it includes lots of protein sources and fat, among other things.
First you leave your chickpeas to soak overnight, and then you flavor them up with chicken, beef, and a ham hock:
Do you see how quickly we’re getting to the “bomb” part?
You also include some vegetables in big pieces, a pinch of salt, and just enough water to cover most of the stuff in the pot.
Then you close up the pot and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Spaniards rely heavily on their ollas rápidas, or pressure cookers, which turn out beautifully soft beans and tender meats. I have a feeling I could reproduce the effects with a good ol’ slow cooker, but I’ll have to experiment with that when I get back to the States.
On the side, you boil chorizo sausage, bacon, and blood sausage if you want to. I was working under the impression that we were boiling the meat to make a broth, but you actually boil it to be eaten alongside the cocido. (As if there weren’t enough nutrients in the garbanzos!)
As a sidenote, it turned out to be a shame to have boiled this particular chorizo, because it is incredibly good raw. I’m not usually a fan, but even I have found myself cutting off a slice or two to snack on now and again.
The most entertaining part about cocido is that all of the pieces are served separately. You strain everything from the pot and serve up the different ingredients on different plates: bacon and chorizo in the foreground, meats on the plate to the left, and veggies front and center. Then you use the broth from the chickpeas to make a soup with thin noodles called fideos. How many noodles should you add? Well, my family says: one handful for each person eating, plus one handful for all.
My Spanish mom was a little upset because, despite the fact that I had specifically requested this meal, I was pretty much full after the warm garbanzo broth noodle soup. So I pushed through a couple of carrots and a handful of chickpeas, all the while praising her cooking and telling her how thin she looked. It appears that some interpersonal strategies are universal, because she was content with my promise to eat leftovers the following day. What’s more, I got lucky because the garbanzos got even more flavorful after sitting in the fridge, and I liked the cocido even better on day two.
Right now I’m headed to the pool to cool down and burn off that cocido, but I’ll be sure to give some thought to how to adapt the recipe to an American kitchen. Come winter, be prepared to make it, try it, and love it!