Stew is life: Asturian “pote” and some other good eats

Northerners brave long, cold rainy seasons and it’s no different here on the Iberian Peninsula. The rolling hills/mountains flaunt their lush green layers in Summer thanks to all those dark, wintry days.

Winter is the reason that stew exists.

And stew is life.

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Only in Morocco will I drink boiling mint tea in the middle of August at 45ºC.

Only in Asturias will I down spoonful after spoonful of piping hot stew during the only months of sweet, sultry sunshine.

Stew is life.

I love Spain for many reasons. I learned how to cook here. If I lived in America it might’ve also happened, but not definitely not like in Spain. I miss home. I miss eating out in the US.  I miss spicy food. I miss tacos. I miss sushi and ramen. But Spain is the definition of that expression “there’s nothing like a home cooked meal.” There are way less reasons to eat out, especially at night. We cook lunch and dinner EVERY. DAY. every fucking day. I hated it at first. I miss Whole Foods salad bar for fuck’s sake. Here, people drool over and argue about their Mom’s lentils and tortillas. Every one has a favorite “cocido,” “potaje,” “caldo,” “puchera,” “fabada,” or “pote,” and it’s probably Grandma’s.

Did you catch that? There are at least 6 ways to say “stew” in Spanish.

Stew is life.

In Madrid, life = “cocido” (garbanzos, potatoes and various meats: chorizo, morcilla, pork fatback etc).

In Galicia, life = “caldo” (white beans, collard greens/turnip tops/cabbage, potatoes and pork fatback).

In Cantabria, life = “puchera” or “cocido” (white beans, greans, and if you reference Wikipedia, different parts from a pig slaughtering).

and in Asturias, life = “pote” (white beans, collard greens, potatoes, chorizo, morcilla, etc.) but also life = “fabada” (huge white beans, chorizo, lots of red chorizo, morcilla, pork fatback, etc etc etc. and definitely no greens).

Please don’t quote me on these ingredients. Everyone’s Granny has her own variation. But more or less you get the idea.

So here’s my advice: In Asturias, always order the “pote” or “fabada.”

Oh, you don’t like stew. Fuck you. Just kidding.

I hope you like seafood, then!

Yeah, I don’t like sardines. I do like fish though. And I discovered my favorite god damn dish every. Stuffed onions. Fancy tuna fish, not from a can. Carmelized red pepper and onion sauce. Baked golden. “Cebolla rellena” is a typical dish in the Llanes area, so if you catch yourself on the Eastern Asturian-coast, do yourself the favor of ordering:

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And carnivores, listen up: order the “picadillo.”  It’s deconstructed chorizo. They put it on everything. Potatoes. Eggs. Bread. Corn cakes.

Hardcore carnivores, you’re in luck. Probably the most famous dish from Asturias, even though it’s not that elaborated. It’s not that good. And most people just order it for the picture… It’s called “cachopo”. And it’s a deep fried cordon bleu sandwhich. Ham and cheese stuffed veal steak. Two slabs of veal. Stuffed. Breaded. Fried.

HOLD UP! If you are a vegetarian like old-Karlita, you’re in luck. Try the cheese! “Cabrales” cheese is super-mega famous up here in Asturias! (it’s basically blue cheese, but, wait, haters, listen up: have you ever ventured out and tried blue cheese not on salad or whatever the fuck else you eat blue cheese with? Asturians also like to put “queso de cabrales” on everything! Potatoes. Meat. Corn cakes.

If you’re vegan, I’m afraid you’ve got only one choice, but count your lucky stars cuz the best place to eat wood-fired baked bread is in the north. It’s the kind that won’t go bad the next day. This is the real shit. But I have to say, though I adore Asturias with all my heart, the best bread is of Galician origin. End of story. So with no other options, you’re left with bread and the classic, everyone’s favorite triangle, tortilla de patata. And if the cows are happier up north, so are the chickens and hens. And the tortilla is proof of this. Golden. Runny. Warm sliver of heaven.

Lastly, it’s basically a sin to accompany a meal here with water. Coca cola would be more normal. Asturias is famed for its cider. Cider tourism is fun and wet and sticky. There’s a trick to the pour. Gotta aerate that slightly alcoholic apple juice real good.  It’s so much fun. And super social. They say the right way is “one glass per table” which means: pour, fast sip/chug, toss out the “culo” or the remains and pass it on to the next person. You don’t pour a glass of cider and sip on it. No. You do a quick aerate pour, down the hatchet and pass.

We’ve made it to the end of the meal. You can go classic dessert: Rice pudding or flan. Or you can go classic Asturian: “carbayón” (top left: puff pastry filled with almond powder soaked in cognac, dipped in cinnamon sugar glaze) or “casadielles” (bottom right: puff pastry filled with walnuts and/or hazelnuts soaked in aniseed, deep fried and coated in sugar)

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I big heart Europe for it’s pastry shops. Colorful donuts and cupcakes are rad, but I really think the US could learn a thing or two from Spain or France about OG, legit AF pastries. And look how cute these traditional pastry shops are:

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If you’re in Oviedo, this is Camilo de Blas pastry shop, worth a visit.

 


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