Sunday, March 14, 2010

La Calçotada

Today in Andorra we had the opportunity to experience a calçotada, a popular gastronomical event held around this time where calçots, a type of green onion, are consumed in large quantities. Somewhat milder than onions but looking like thinner versions of leeks, calçots are native to eastern Spain and not really consumed anywhere else.

The tenderness of the long, center is achieved by planting the onion bulbs in trenches and successively increasing the depth of the soil around the stems throughout autumn and winter as they continue to grow. The catalan verb calçar apparently means literally to cover the trunk or bottom of plant with dirt, hence the onion's name calçot

The calçots are barbecued in large quantities over fire, then served - today they were divvied out and wrapped in newspapers. Once you receive your portion of calçots you must peel off the charred outer layer to reach the sweet and tender center. This is then dipped in the typical Catalan romesco sauce made from ground nuts, oil, garlic, and small red bell peppers, among other things. It is very much reminiscent of muhamarra from Arabic/Turkish cuisine. On the side it is typical to grill sausages and bread, both of which we also had today along with some wine.

The eating of the calçot is quite a production and, like with lobsters in the U.S., one is served a bib so as to not make a mess. We even got plastic gloves today. Despite waiting an hour in line (Andorran efficiency at its finest!) I'd say it was definitely worth the wait! Fun little festivals like this are definitely some of my favorite things about living in greater Catalunya.

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