April 3, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

I found love in Catalonia – in the colorful hanging buildings of Girona, inside the quirky walls of Dalí’s house in Cadaqués, and while tip-toeing across river stepping stones in Besalú. But my biggest Catalonian love? The calçot.

The Catalonia region claims cuisine fame for many things: pan con tomate (bread with tomato), crema catalana (similar to crème brulee), the sparkling wine cava and, sure enough, a special little onion called a calçot. With their long green shoots and wiry roots, they look an awful lot like leeks or oddly monstrous green onions.

Sure, so you’re thinking, big deal, Tortuga – I’ll see you your gigantic special green onions and raise you some organic jicama from Whole Foods, or something. Ah, but there’s so much more to a calçot than just simple, giant oniony goodness. This is because a calcot’s future is so much more exciting than that of your typical grocery store produce.

The special-ness takes place during early winter and late spring, when the famous veggie comes into season. Since the onions are so fabulous, Catalonians often partake in a proper gastro celebration, called a calçotada – a feast filled with wine and food, but mostly mass quantities of calçots.

They start by spearing loads of the stalky green onions onto a wire, like a necklace, before draping the creation over a blazing fire. The exterior layer chars on one side for a few minutes, before getting flopped over to the other side. Wrapped up newspaper, the calçots stay warm, while strand after strand of vegetables has its turn above the flames.

At the table, hungry mouths water while sleeves get pulled up, ready for the impending mess. After all, they won’t be eaten tidily with forks and knives, but rather by hand. You see, to get to the sweet interior, one must pop the bottom off, then slowly peel away the outer layer with care. Holding the calçot by the green stalk, the tender tip is then dunked in a bowl of romesco sauce – a fire-colored concoction made of bell pepper, garlic, olive oil and nuts like almonds, pine nuts or hazel nuts. Honestly, everything at the table (at least my table) ends up getting dunked in that amazing sauce – bread, spoons, fingers – it’s that good.

Peeled and doused in romesco, it’s time to dangle the calçot above your mouth, noshing away at the toasty sweet bottom portion, just up until the green part begins. Then you repeat the process again….and again…and again, because it’s amazing, and even better, it’s crazy healthy, so there’s no logical reason not to eat these things like you’ll never have another meal for the rest of your life. Truly.

The only tragic part about this whole experience is that I feel as though there is a pre- and post-calçotada aspect to my life these days. Now, whenever I see anything resembling a calçot at the store, I get really excited, thinking it’s my beloved onion. But not only is not a calçot, but even if it were, I can’t quite see myself whipping up a bonfire on a Madrid sidewalk in order to get my calçotada on. Although…..I’m totally not above that….

Disclosure: I traveled through Catalonia as a guest of Charming Villas Catalonia. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.

8 Responses to “Behold the calçotada!!!”

  1. Erik R. Says:

    Oooh! I’ve heard about these feasts from a Spanish gastronomy show or two. I’ve always wanted to try it.

  2. Erin Says:

    I’d never heard of it until this occasion. Now, I’m obsessed.

  3. My Traveling Troop Says:

    I wish they sold calcots in the states! Looks delicious! Guess we better plan a visit to Spain! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Kristina

  4. Ben F. Says:

    So do these calcotadas leave onion breath? Are they sweet onions like on Hawaii? What do they taste like? Are they like artichokes with the difficulty in removing the edible part? They look fantastic, how about the next time you go, you send some to me!

  5. Randall St. Germain Says:

    Thanks for this post, Erin. I was never in this part of Spain. Hopefully next time. Looks like you had a wonderful dinner. 🙂

  6. Cassandra Says:

    What a fun event! I’m adding caçotada-attending to the endless list of things I want to try in Spain. I doubt I could find an authentic experience in Madrid, though, so on to Catalonia it must be!

  7. New Life In Spain Says:

    Fun to read about your experience with this! I loved my first calcotada! I had a blast and hope to attend one next year too, maybe even the main event in Valls, where it originated?
    If you want, you can read about my calcotada here: http://www.newlifeinspain.com/2012/02/my-first-calcotada.html
    I think it’s so great how they manage to make such a huge party and tradition from something as simple as calcots!

  8. Hallacas Says:

    Calçots are as important to Barcelona as Hallacas in my beloved Venezuela.
    Cooked on the grill calçots are just delicious, specially if the “romesco” sauce is home made.
    Enjoy,
    Ana

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