In the last years calçotadas are a must do on February every year, it is a Catalan tradition and gathering around Catalan gastronomy with friends and family. I will explain you now all about calçotadas, but you have to try one if you are around that time of the year. You can have them at home or there are restaurants that can be booked, for me the fun is to do it yourself, you can even book a barbecue in a restaurant and you bring the material to do it yourself.
What is a calçot?
First things first, a calçot or also called ceballot is a variety of tender onion and they are eaten grilled on coal as it has the taste, it is not the same to do it in any other way. It is said that the tradition of eating calçots comes from a peasant leaving in Valls -a town in Tarragona- at the end of XIX century.
From then onwards the use of calçot has been extended and known around and very typical in Catalonia. Calçots are eaten between January and Març, they are cooked in coal or firewood and eaten along with a sauce called romesco.
Every year there is a calçot party in Valls celebrated on the last Sunday of January and has been celebrated since 1896. There are three contests in this gathering, one for cultivators of calçots, another one for the calçotada sauce and the last one is for calçot eaters to see who is able to eat more calçots in a certain time.
The calçot is a plant with a lot of vitamins and minerals, but they are not eaten alone, the calçots are just the first part of the caçotada, as a main there is meat, normally Catalan sausage, called botifarra.
Every year more than 55 million calçots are gathered, and only 10% of those have the origin denomination of "Calçot from Valls". With these numbers you can imagine how much we like these onions.
The calçotada is a gastronomic gathering with friends and family and is the most traditional way of eating calçots. As mentioned calçotades go from January to March or April, depending on the year as it follows the temperature and weather.
The calçotada starts with the first dish calçots, normally between 10 and 20 per person and they are served in tiles wrapped up in newspaper to keep the temperature with the typical romesco sauce. As a mian the normal thing is to eat grilled meat of any kind along with toasted bread and all i oli, the Catalan sauce for meaty meals.
You will see in most calçotades everyone wearing a bib as it is very easy to stain your shirt, since calçots are long you need to put your chin up and raise your arm to put the calçot in your mouth already soaked in the romesco sauce.
The strategy to don't end up all stained in black from the burnt onions is to peel them with delicacy as you only eat the inside part of the onion.
Salsa romesco is key to success
The salsa romesco is a key element of the calçotada, calçots have a neutral taste oniony but not very hard, so what gives all the flavor and taste is an amazing romesco. The sauce is made with: tomatoes, toasted almonds, garlic, nyora -type of dried pepper-,olive oil, parsley, vinegar and salt.
Where to eat calçots
Let's stop talking about them and let's go to the funny part which is know where to eat them.
Calçots restaurants in Barcelona
If you want to try these burnt onions called calçots in the city, you can do it, I have selected three restaurants for you, check them out:
Can Cortada: Avinguda l'Estatut de Catalunya, s/n, 08035
Can Travi Nou: Calle Jorge Manrique, s/n, 08035
- Restaurant Carmen: Valladolid, 44 08014 Sants-Montjuïc
Disclaimer: calçots picture by José Tellez