CREMA DE GARBANZOS CON JAMON CRUJIENTE
— from The New Spanish Table (Workman, $23), by Anya von Bremzen
5 tablespoons fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 medium-size carrot, diced
1 small leek, white part only, well rinsed and sliced
3 medium-size garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans; from two 15-ounce cans), plus 1 cup of their liquid
2 cups chicken stock or broth, or more if needed
1 piece (6 to 8 ounces) smoky slab bacon
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 piece (2 ounces) serrano ham or prosciutto, finely diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Parsley oil (optional)
1. Make the paprika oil: Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a very small skillet or saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the paprika, and let the oil infuse for 30 to 45 minutes. When ready to use, spoon off the oil into a small bowl, leaving the paprika in the skillet. You’ll have more oil than you need for the garbanzo soup; set the rest aside for drizzling on other dishes.
2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy, medium-size soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, leek, and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables until softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chickpeas and their liquid, the chicken stock, and bacon, and bring to a boil, skimming. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bacon or save for another use. Working in two batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, then return to the pot, adding a little more chicken stock if you’d like the soup to be thinner. Season with salt to taste.
4. Place a heavy, medium-size skillet over medium-high heat (do not use a nonstick skillet) and heat until very hot, about 1 minute. Add the ham and cook (without oil), stirring, until it turns crisp, about 3 minutes. (If the ham bits begin to pop out of the skillet, cover it.) Transfer the ham to a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes; it will crisp further.
5. Reheat the soup, if necessary, then ladle it into soup plates or wide tumblers. Drizzle the paprika oil decoratively over the soup and sprinkle the crisp ham, parsley, and parsley oil on top.