Cocido Montañés

A bowl of cocido montañés.

Cocido montañés (‘highlander stew’ or ‘mountain stew’), is a rich hearty Spanish bean stew, originally from and most commonly found in Cantabria in northern Spain.ñés

Cocido montañés is another example of the multitude of very similar pork and bean stews from Spain. Like olla podrida and fabada Asturiana it’s base is beans and several cuts of fresh and cured pork and different types of sausage.

Honestly, I have been unable to particularly pinpoint how any of these dishes really varies from the others, beyond which region of the country it originated in and which type of beans are grown there.

That said, this dish does contain more vegetables than the others, although the cabbage pretty much disappears by the times it’s cooked for 2-3 hours. Despite most of the things I read saying that collard greens would be traditional in this dish, most of the actual recipes, including those that were obviously posted by native Spaniards, called for savoy cabbage. The recipes that seemed to most closely follow a traditional approach to the recipe all called for soaking your cut cabbage overnight, and then rinsing until the water no longer runs green. I think the explanation I saw in one video was that it reduced the cabbage flavor- which to me says it’s also removing the nutrients. I did soak my cabbage and it didn’t really turn the water green at all, so I’m thinking this step might be more important with a darker leafy green, and am inclined to say that it could be skipped without ill effect on the recipe.

I’m also not entirely sure why cooking the beans and cabbage in separate pots seems to be traditional, other than pot space, but it would seem like any sort of cabbage or greens should wilt fast enough for that to not really be an issue, since both cook the same amount of time and are mixed together in the end. I did it the traditional way, but again, I really don’t think it will majorly change the dish to put everything in one pot if you want to.

In researching this recipe I found out that morcilla (spanish blood sausage) come in several different flavors, and this dish traditionally contains two different varieties, morcilla de cebolla (onion), and morcilla de arroz (rice). The onion one is firmer in texture and goes in the pot at the beginning, while the rice one (which is, I believe, the one that any Americans who are familiar with morcilla will likely be familiar with) is softer and we add it at the end so that it wont explode into the stew.

For the chorizo I ordered a semi-cured “cooking” chorizo. After several Spanish and Portuguese dishes calling for chorizo I’ve found that the hard Spanish chorizo you can find in grocery stores here in America is not really suitable for these types of stew dishes, as it remains very dry even with hours of simmering. It’s great for dishes where you want to slice it super thin and either cook it until it breaks down into the dish or eat it without much further cooking, but for these types of dish where you want larger chunks of meat it’s not very palatable. The softer semi-cured variety is what these recipes use traditionally, and it works much better.

This time around I purchase the morcilla and chorizo from La Tienda*

Tocino is Spanish for bacon, but I can’t find any information about how it is cured in Spain (the Phillipino version, which is kind of a sweet and sour pork belly, dominates the results I can find), so I have no idea if it’s usually smoked like American bacon, or if it’s just salt pork, like one of the recipes I looked at called for, or more similar to English back bacon. Since I happened to have the appropriate amount of salt pork in the freezer I went that route, but if any of my readers are familiar with tocino in Spain and can fill me in on what the most appropriate American equivalent would be it would be much appreciated.

The real weird piece of the pig in this dish is the ear. I’m pretty sure that 99% of pigs ears in this country wind up smoked and sold as dog chews if they are used at all, but in many parts of the world they are considered something of a delicacy. I’ll admit they are somewhat of an acquired taste- they’re mostly cartilage, so they have a weird crunchy texture, even after several hours of simmering. I have used them once before, several years ago in a dish where they were the main ingredient, and wasn’t a big fan. In this dish, where they are just a minor element adding some crunch to an otherwise pretty soft dish they are quite a bit more fun to eat. It works best to cook them whole and then slice them into very thin slices so you’re not trying to crunch through a big chunks.

I purchased my pigs ear at a local butcher shop that does a lot of smoked meat products, where I knew I’d seen smoked ears before (as a matter of fact I think he was about to put a batch in the smoker, because when I asked he reached into a box sitting on the cart next to him and pulled it out!) After having secured my ear and other pork products I headed to the grocery store, where I was surprised to find pigs ears in the cooler! In retrospect I think that was where I got the ones I cooked several years ago, but they definitely haven’t been regularly available there recently.

For the pork ribs element of the dish, I used the same adobo marinade recipe I used in olla podrida, and let them marinate overnight. I’m guessing that in Spain you can buy premartinated adobo ribs, much like the various flavors of bbq marinated ribs you find here.

Cocido Montañés

Serves: 8-10
Prep: 20-30 minutes
Cook: 2 ½ hours
Total: ~3 hours, plus overnight soaking

1 ½ lbs. cannellini beans 
1 small savoy cabbage

½ lb. salt pork (tocino)
1 lb. pork ribs in adobo
4 Spanish semi-cured chorizo sausages
2 onion blood sausages (morcilla de cebolla)
1-2 small smoked pork knuckles or ham bones
1 pigs ear

2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 rice blood sausages (morcilla de arroz)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
4 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

salt to taste

3 bay leaves
2 pinches saffron

Pick over beans and remove any damaged beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain and cover with cool water. Leave to soak over night. Thinly slice the cabbage and cover with cold water. Leave to soak over night in the refrigerator.

Drain the beans and place in a large pot. Drain the cabbage and rinse in several changes of water, until water no longer runs green. Place in a separate large pot. Divide the salt pork, ribs, chorizo, onion blood sausages, pork knuckles and pigs ear between the two pots. Add water to bean pot until meat is covered. Add water to cabbage pot to cover everything by about two inches. Bring both pots to a boil, skim off any foam, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about two hours. If the liquid in the bean pot evaporates too much, add a ladle or two of broth from the cabbage pot. 

Once beans and meat are tender, transfer the meat and cabbage to the bean pot. Add potatoes and rice morcilla. Add additional cabbage water as needed. Continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté until golden brown. Remove from heat and add paprika. Mix well and add to the stew, using a little liquid from the pot to rinse the skillet. 

Add salt to taste. Remove meats and cut into serving size pieces. Return pork to pot. Ladle the beans into bowls and top with slices of the various sausages.

*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.

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