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11/03/2013

Calçotada: Cooking Calçots for a Festival in a Plaza in the Barrio of Sarría in Barcelona / Dishes with Romesco.


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One late February 2009, I was staying at George and Lucy Semler's apartment in the Barrio of Sarría in Barcelona.  Just outside his apartment in a plaza, a group of volunteers was cooking a slew of calçots to benefit a charity (for Palestinians, I believe).    


Calçots for a festival in a plaza in the barrio of Sarría in Barcelona.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009 / gerrydawes@aol.com.  Canon 50D Mark III / Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8.

Calçots are green onions that are about twice the size of scallions and milder, without the toughness of leeks.  They are grown, like leeks and white asparagus, but covering much of the plant with earth so that the edible portions will remain white.  The season for calçots usually runs from November through March.  


 
Calçots for a festival in a plaza in the barrio of Sarría in Barcelona.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009 / gerrydawes@aol.com.  Canon 50D Mark III / Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8.

Typically, hundreds of calçots are placed over an open flame, ideally grape vine cuttings, and grilled, dirt and all, until the outsides are charred and the calçots cooked through.  


  
Cooking calçots for a festival in a plaza in the barrio of Sarría in Barcelona.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009 / gerrydawes@aol.com.  Canon 50D Mark III / Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8.

The calçots are wrapped, usually a dozen at a time, in newspapers, which allows to keep steaming.  They are often served at the table in an inverted terra cotta roofing tile, which doubles as a serving dish and keep them warm.


 
Wrapping cooked calçots in newspapers at a festival in a plaza in the barrio of Sarría in Barcelona.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009 / gerrydawes@aol.com.  Canon 50D Mark III / Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8.


Each diner, armed with a roll of paper towels and a bib, strips off the charred outer layers, dips the calçot in a bowl of thick salbitxada sauce, then throw his or her head back and lowers it into the mouth, biting off pieces until the calçot is gone.  Thats where the bib comes in.  Usually the juices and drops of sauce fall onto the diner's chest. 

Salbitxada is essentially romesco sauce, which is composed of ñora peppers (anchos can be used), tomatoes, lots of garlic, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, ground almonds and/or hazelnuts and salt).  Romesco / salbitxada sauce is addicting.  

 
Variation on the calçots-romesco theme.   
Gerry's dishes:  Seared, sliced sea scallops served on a bed of sauteed leeks with romesco sauce (Inspired by a dish at Bravas restaurant in Healdsburg, California.  See below.)  Nov. 2, 2013

Sea scallops with romesco and leeks from the fire pit, accompanied by three white wines from The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group--Manuel Formigo Finca Teira Ribeiro, D. Berna Godello Valdeorras and O Barreiro A Silveira Godello Valdeorras-- at Bravas Bar de Tapas, a really good new Spanish cuisine restaurant in Healdsburg, California, Sept. 16, 2013.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 / gerrydawes@aol.com. Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

This dish is a specialty of Valls in Tarragona province and bus loads of Catalans make pilgrimages to restaurants in this area specializing in La Calçotada.  Nearly twenty years ago, I went to one of this places near Valls with a group of American journalists, many of whom eagerly devoured a dozen or two of calçots with romesco / salbitxada sauce, washed down with red wine from porrones (a porrón is a typical needle-nosed spout Catalan communal drinking vessel that typically large enough to hold a bottle of wine). 


 
American chef Michael Chiarello drinking wine from a  porrón at a Mas Gourmets de L'Embotit stand at la Boqueria market in Barcelona.  Oct. 11, 2011.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 /  gerrydawes@aol.com.

 
Gerry drinking from a way-too-small porrón at Can Majó provided by his long-time friend, Enrique Suárez, owner of Can Majó and the man responsible for selecting the highest quality ingredients for his restaurant
Photo by Lisbeth Suyehira.
  
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For custom-designed tours of Spain, organized and lead by Gerry Dawes, and custom-planned itineraries, send inquiries to gerrydawes@aol.com.  I have planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez and have given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities. 
  
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“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . .the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” – The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. Chef Chiarello toured northern Spain with me in October 2011 and was just in Barcelona again in January 2013.  He is preparing to open his new Spanish inspired restaurant, Coqueta, at San Francisco's Pier 5 in April.

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"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

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About Gerry Dawes  


Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

 In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés. ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com.
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