Because every bean is different and thus cooks differently, this dish requires that you use your instincts and buy beans from a source who sells enough beans so they aren’t too old. It is better to use American beans that are fresh as opposed to imported Spanish beans that may have been sitting around in a warehouse. If you can’t find fresh Navarran or Basque beans, substitute domestic Rio Zape beans from Rancho Gordo (ranchogordo.com) or a similar thin-skinned red bean.
Wine Recommendation: Despite the presence of meats and sausages in this dish, Txakoli goes with any Basque food. If you tried Txomín Extaniz with your clams in green sauce, then opt for a Txakoli from Ameztoi or Itsas Mendi. Should you be able to find it, Ameztoi’s pink-colored Rubentis made from the red Hondarribi Beltza grape veers more toward nectarine than green apple and citrus. Certain reds from Rioja or Navarra might work as well.
1 pound red beans, soaked the night before in refrigerator
1 large Spanish onion, whole and unpeeled
1 leek, split and rinsed
1 carrot, peeled
1 head garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1⁄2 small head of savoy cabbage (preserve other half for garnish)
2 ounces Serrano ham or prosciutto
1 link Spanish chorizo
8 ounces pork belly
11⁄2 pounds baby back rib slab, or 6 ribs in one slab, uncut
2 links morcilla blood sausage, optional(available from Despaña brand foods)
2 Guajillo chiles, seeded, or 3 Nora peppers, seeded (available from Despaña brand foods)
3 tablespoons salt, and more as needed
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 pickled green peppers like pepperoncini, sliced thin
Remaining half of savoy cabbage, cut in ribbons and boiled until tender in salted water, reserved
In an 8–quart pot, cover the beans and all ingredients except those for the garnish with 6 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the meats and vegetables are tender, removing the pork belly, sausages and ribs as each is cooked (do not overcook). Set meats (los sacramentos) aside to cool before cutting each into 6 pieces. Continue to cook the beans, checking frequently and adding water as needed (up to 3 hours total). When beans are tender, remove and discard the cabbage, dried chile peppers and garlic head. Peel the onion and purée with carrot, some of the bean liquor and a cup of beans. Whisk back into the beans for body.
To Serve: Heat the beans and adjust seasoning. Divide between 6 bowls and then serve with meats and cabbage on the side. To garnish, sprinkle beans with pickled peppers. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic together until the garlic is just golden and spoon over the beans. Serves 6.