Madrilenian Stew

Photo from The Heritage of Spanish Cooking by Alicia Ríos and Lourdes March

A Madrilenian stew is to Madrid what a Valencian paella is to Valencia, a national dish that defines an entire region of Spain. Of course, like the paella, the “cocido madrileño” has become ubiquitous, particularly during the winter months.

When I was growing up it wasn’t so popular or fancy. My mother made it often, especially if one of us had a cold, sort of her version of the Jewish chicken soup. Traditionally, it’s served in three courses: the soup, the vegetables with the chickpeas and the meats. Everything else is up to the cook’s imagination. The soup can be rice, vermicelli or any other small pasta; the vegetables consist of potatoes, celery, carrots, parsnips and sometimes cabbage; the meats always mean chicken, sausages and some pork or beef bone, as if the dish needed more flavor…

I’ve read that this dish goes back to Medieval times when it was called “olla podrida” (rotten pot). Originally it only required some vegetables and chicken.  But by the XV century, after the Jewish people were expelled from Spain, pork was included by the Conversos, the converted Jews, to show their new faith and save their lives. No wonder, then, that Don Quixote, who like Cervantes himself was probably of Jewish descent, ate lots of pork in his stew.

My mother’s recipe always included rice and saffron for her soup, as a good Valencian woman she was. For the sausages she made sure to have some blood sausages made with onion and a lighter kind in color and substance. She didn’t make a big meatball as trendy Madrilenians do nowadays and tomato sauce was not served with the chickpeas and the vegetables.

Each cocido had a long life in my family. In its second day, the soup became vegetable puree served with croutons and the meats turned into “ropa vieja” (old clothes), cut in bite-size pieces sautéed with some tomato and onion. For me, the best part of this dish were the croquets made with the leftover chicken and some ham in a bechamel sauce.

I don’t make croquets now because they are so messy, but often prepare cocido for my American family and I’m always surprised they like it so much, since it’s so ethnic. Of course, I cheat like crazy and make my own hack substitutions. Blood sausages are out of the question, a pepperoni stick gives color and flavor just the same. Instead of soaking the chickpeas overnight, I get them out of a can, and I throw in a couple of veal shanks, because it’s lighter than pork and my youngest daughter loves the marrow. How is this possible? you may ask, but then, I always thought there was some Jewish blood in my heritage.

Concha’s version of the Madrilenian Stew:

The Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small tomato, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
¾ cup rice
Saffron, salt, pepper, parsley, to taste

The Vegetables
3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in half
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut
3 potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

The Meats
6-8 chicken pieces, legs and thighs are best
3 veal shanks
1 stick pepperoni or chorizo, cut in two or three large chunks

The Stew
In a large soup pot cover the meats with water and let them simmer for about 30 minutes. Skim the foam as it forms. Add the vegetables and continue simmering for 15 minutes longer, add the chickpeas last.

For the soup, sauté the tomato and garlic in olive oil. Add the rice until coated. Add spices. Cover with broth from the meat and vegetables pot, about two cups per person. Simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is cooked.

Serve the soup for a first course and then meats and vegetables, family style.

If you are brave, you know what to do with the leftovers!


11 Responses to Madrilenian Stew

  1. Richard Bocchini says:

    Yes. The stew does remind me of a Woody Allen movie; both of him as the creator (chef) and his movies which too, are often composed of the most unlikely of characters (vegetables and scraps of amorphous foods and spices) and produce the most appealing products which have a bocca buono long past its due date. Only politicians who are the alleged keepers of the flame of political morality should be severly judged by their immoral behavior;creative artists, although equally as feral, at least produce something of substance which can than be openly judged and criticzed for its artistic or not artistic value or as a metaphor for the artist as person.

    • conchaalborg says:

      Very clever, Dick! Leave it to you to mix two posts so well. I couldn’t agree with you more, Concha

  2. conchaalborg says:

    Great article! Great hack!

    Thanks, Helen. You are a great teacher! Concha

  3. conchaalborg says:

    Even in print, the aroma is sooooo enticing. Your mother would be appalled at the price of veal shanks.
    Cirel Magen
    How right you are, Cirel, and I have to go to the Italian Market to find them! Concha

  4. conchaalborg says:

    Enjoyed reading all about the Madrilenian Stew. As I read about the many phases of the Stew, I 
    visualized preparing parts of the dish at our mealtimes in the future. Many thanks for sharing your food culture with us. 
    Thanks, Libby. Food is definitely one of our connections, Concha

  5. conchaalborg says:

    Estupendo! Para chuparse los dedos
    Besos, Inés

  6. conchaalborg says:

    Concha – one of my family’s favorite meals is a Brazilian cozido. Similar recipe – I use shin bones and lots of vegetables. To serve – meat is sliced and placed on a platter with the vegetables, broth is served separately, some of the broth is mixed with farina (manioc flour) to make a porridge to eat with the cozido. Every country seems to have their own version of boiled beef.
    It’s amazing how many similarities in the food can be found among Latin American countries and Spain. I had tortilla soup in Puebla once and it had the same ingredients as the cocido soup, plus avocado slices, lime and hot peppers, of course…
    Vera, an Argentinian friend, wrote that Zapallo (puchero argentino), with chorizo but without morcilla, is almost the same as my cocido madrileño. Concha

  7. conchaalborg says:

    Wonderful blog post and looks like a wonderful recipe!
    Many thanks, Concha

  8. Annette Linck says:

    Your wonderful recipe awakens my Spanish palate so I’m reaching for Amparo’s recipe for Caldo Gallego. Served as a thick soup, the ingredients include cooking: Picnic ham, short ribs, beef and some chorizo too. Separately, the vegetables are cooked in the broth of the cooked meats, with pre-soaked navy beans. The greens of choice are rabizas, or collared green as a substitute. The soup comes first, then everything else… divino!

  9. conchaalborg says:

    Can’t wait to try it!!
    You are such a faithful reader, Joan! Thanks, Concha