Tapas (or “small plates”) have been a popular restaurant trend for quite some time now; the fad of ordering multiple small plates filled with smoky chorizo, spicy tomato sauce and garlicky shellfish (to name a few) for sharing with tablemates is still going strong. Plus, they’re a great way to try an array of dishes without having to order huge portions that will just end up in a doggy bag.
Here’s a novel idea: You don’t need to venture out to enjoy these dishes, as many of them are pretty darn simple to whip up at home. The ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store and you may even have most of them in your pantry.
Here is an amazingly simple and exotic tapas dish to get you started on your culinary tour of Spain: stewed chickpeas with chorizo, aka “habas con chorizo.” Smoky and slightly spicy cured Spanish chorizo rendered and sauteed with onions and garlic, then simmered with cinnamon, cloves and broth until the liquid and aromatics have reduced and are absorbed by the chickpeas. Sounds complex but, trust me, it’s pretty foolproof and 100 percent delicious.
The key to getting the liquid to reduce is all in the pan. A large sauté pan with sloping sides will allow steam to be released, thus aiding in the liquid reduction process. A pan or pot with high, straight sides will keep more of the liquid vapor trapped inside the vessel and it will take the liquid twice as long to reduce; only choose this type of pot or pan if you’re making a soup or stew.
This dish hails from Catalonia, located in the northeastern region of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Catalan dishes rely heavily on ingredients used in Mediterranean cuisine — tomato, garlic, olive oil, legumes, eggplant, etc. One legume, the garbanzo bean (or “chickpea”), is used often in Mediterranean dishes either whole in salads or stews, or mashed up to make hummus or falafel. Pork products are widely used in Catalonia — since they’re the main producers of pork products in Spain — and cured chorizo (a hallmark of Spanish cuisine) is often used to flavor soups, stews and a range of other dishes. Put chickpeas and chorizo together and you’ve got a hearty, smoky dish that’s adaptable for any occasion (save for Jewish or Muslim holidays).
Stewed Chickpeas with Chorizo
Makes 4 servings. Adapted from: From Tapas to Meze… by Joanne Weir.
4 ounces of Spanish (cured) chorizo, sliced and quartered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil (or as needed)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
Parsley, stems and leaves separated
2 cups chicken broth, or enough to just cover ingredients in the pan
1. Bring a large sauté pan to medium heat on the stove top, then add the chorizo and let it cook for a few minutes to render the fat from it. Add the onion and spices, stir to coat in the chorizo fat and add the olive oil if the mixture seems too dry. Sweat onion until it’s soft, about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Add the chickpeas, bay leaf, parsley stems and broth to the pan (add enough broth to cover the chickpeas). Simmer slowly, uncovered, until the liquid is almost gone — about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chop up the parsley leaves and sprinkle them on top. Before serving, don’t forget to remove the parsley stems and bay leaf!