Chef Alex Raij's Basque Red Bean Stew

February 01, 2019

As part of our Porter partnership with Edible Schoolyard NYC, we've tapped top chefs in their network to share recipes, tips and fresh ways to spruce up your lunch.

If you've ever had the pleasure of traveling throughout Spain, you know the country's depths of deliciousness extend far beyond patatas bravas and jamon. In New York City, Chef Alex Raij and her husband, Eder Montero, have earned endless raves for their elevated take on rustic, regional Spanish cuisine at El Quinto Pino, Txikito, La Vara and the newly opened Saint Julivert Fisherie.

Raij is also the author of The Basque Book, a "love letter in recipes" to one of the most Michelin-starred regions on earth. We asked her to share one of her favorite winter recipes from the cookbook: a rustic, one-pot stew featuring smoky peppers and rich cuts of pork.

Basque bean stew

Alubias con Sacramentos (Basque Red Beans with Braised Meats)

Serves 6-8

  • 1 pound (2¼ cups) dried red beans, rinsed
  • 1 large Spanish onion, unpeeled, ends cut off
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 head garlic, unpeeled, top cut off
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 dried guajillo or choricero peppers, tops trimmed off and seeds shaken out (or 2 tablespoons choricero pepper paste)
  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage, halved through the stem end
  • 2 ounces jamón serrano or prosciutto ends
  • 8 ounces pork belly, in one piece
  • 1½ - 2 pounds baby back ribs, in one piece
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 link (3 ounces) quality Spanish chorizo
  • 2 blood sausages (6 ounces)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
  • Pickled green guindilla peppers (or peperoncini), for serving

The Basque Book

In a large stockpot, combine the beans, onion, leek, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, dried peppers (or pepper paste), half of the cabbage, the jamón, the pork belly, and the ribs. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and sufficient water to cover by 6 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to a simmer. Taste and adjust the salt, as necessary. 

Continue to cook, skimming off any fat and impurities that rise to the surface, for about 1½ hours. Using a spider or 2 slotted spoons, remove the meats as they are done, being careful not to overcook them. (Note: You know the ribs and belly are done if a bamboo skewer can be inserted without resistance but sticks a bit on the way out. The chorizo and blood sausage will take only 20 minutes to cook, so add them when the pork belly and ribs are getting close to done.) Set the pork belly and ribs and both sausages aside to cool before cutting each into 6 to 8 pieces. Continue to cook the beans, checking frequently and adding water as needed to keep them submerged. (They may take as long as 3 hours total.)

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut the remaining cabbage half into narrow ribbons, add to the boiling water, and boil for about 10 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and set the cabbage aside on a plate. It can be served at room temperature or reheated. 

When the beans are tender, remove and discard the cabbage, garlic, and jamón ends. Then remove the onion and carrot. Peel the onion, and add both the onion and carrot to a blender. Scoop out about 1 cup of beans from the pot and add to the blender along with about 1 cup of the bean broth. Puree until smooth. Add this puree back into the pot with the rest of the beans; it will add body. (If you have exceptional beans, you can leave them brothy and forego this step, simply adding the puree of onion and carrot.) Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until the flavors are melded. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. 

In a small saucepan, combine the oil and sliced garlic over medium heat and cook, stirring, for about 40 seconds, or until the garlic is just golden brown. Carefully stir half of the garlic and oil into the beans—it will sizzle—and pour the other half over the cabbage. 

To serve, ladle the beans in warmed bowls and garnish with the reserved meats, pickled peppers and cabbage.  

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Recipe reprinted with permission from The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij with Eder Montero and Rebecca Flint Marx, copyright © 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Penny De Los Santos.

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