It was love at first bite.
One taste was all it took to convince me that the traditional Spanish stew with beans and sausages, cooked in an Old World cazuela, should become part of my culinary repertoire.
My attempt to replicate a friend’s recipe began with soaking the dish all night and spending a day conditioning it. I rubbed the bottom with a clove of garlic, then simmered a water-and-vinegar combination until nearly all liquid had evaporated. OK, I did not spend a lot of time doing anything physical, but I did have to remember to soak the dish. And then I had to watch the water boil. Do I get credit for that?
The making of this stew had been delayed because of an anticipated ice storm. Thankfully, my power was knocked out for only a day. More than 700,000 other PECO customers also lost power, and many homes remained cold and dark for several days. I held back on buying the perishable items for the stew until my power had been restored and I felt safe driving on the roads.
Four days after my original make date, I assembled the ingredients. I must have read the recipe half a dozen times before I took the first step. More than once, I reread the directions. I knew this stew would be delicious and anticipated having servings in the freezer, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice.
Into the cazuela went a tablespoon of olive oil, chopped bacon, and onions, all sweating away until the onions turned transparent. This would take some time, as the stove was at medium temperature. As I turned away to tidy my countertop, I heard the most gruesome sound. Turning back to the stove, I saw that a crack had developed in the cazuela. The flame alongside it probably came from olive oil or bacon fat dripping through the crack.
Instinctively, I removed the pan from the heat and put the food into a skillet and onto another burner. Wrong move: The skillet would be too small once the remaining ingredients were added. So everything went into my large Dutch oven for the remainder of the cooking time.
The result was not a bad stew, but it had far more liquid than the one I enjoyed last year. Partly because of the different cooking vessel, and
partly because—fearful the stew would burn—I may have added more water than necessary. But the stew did not burn, and the leftovers are just as good as the original meal.
With fresh snow blanketing the yard, maybe any hot meal would have tasted good. Somehow, though, I don’t believe just any meal would have tasted as good as this one.