Calçot is the name given to a type of spring onion grown mainly in the Alt Camp district of Tarragona, where the capital of Valls is famed for this gastronomic specialty. The onions are grilled over hot coals and served on hot ceramic tiles to keep them hot, usually with a sauce like a romesco that the locals call salbitxada.
Makes 4 servings.
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 40 min.
5-6 dozen calçots
12 ripe tomatoes
4 ñoras (dried, round red peppers)
2 oz roasted almonds
7 cloves garlic
1 sprig of mint
8 fl oz oil
2 slices bread
1/4 cup vinegar
Cut the roots off the calçots to remove any soil and arrange them in a line over the coals. Turn gradually so that they turn crisp on the outside and are cooked through inside. (In the kitchen, they can be cooked in an iron frying pan or a griddle pan.) Serve on hot tiles to keep in the heat with a bowl of salbitxada.
Salbitxada sauce: Leave the ñoras to soak in warm water for half an hour. Grill the tomatoes and the garlic over the coals or in the oven then crush the garlic in the mortar with the mint, the hazelnuts, the seeded ñoras, and the bread soaked in vinegar. Once a paste has formed, add the tomatoes and continue to work until a fine sauce is made. Gradually add the oil then the pepper and salt.
The right way to eat calçots is to hold them from the top and pinch at the root to pull off the two outside layers, which will probably have been charred by the coals. This reveals the white onion flesh, which is then dipped in the sauce then lifted high to the mouth. The traditional companion for a calçot meal is white butifarra sausage and chargrilled lamb chops.
Recipe courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine.