David Cartoixà may come to serve, one Sunday in February in his restaurant The Hermitage of Brugués (between Gavà and Begues, Baix Llobregat), calçots for 500 diners. Cooking begins at 7:30 in the morning, the old-fashioned way, over a blazing fire, but the real secret is the Romesco sauce that accompanies them, or salvitxada as they call it in areas of Tarragona.
Cartoixà makes the calçots sauce “with dehydrated ñoras, roasted pear tomatoes, garlic confit in oil, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, olive oil, a splash of cognac and some vinegar”. To thicken the sauce he uses fried bread, but some give it a sweet touch with a cookie or carquiñolis.
A cousin of romesco, the sauce to dress the xató (a salad with endive, shredded cod and black olives, the origin of which is disputed by various towns in Garraf and Baix Penedès) is also made with ñoras, tomatoes, garlic, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, olive oil and some vinegar. But with a difference, emphasizes Cartoixà: “We put onion escalivada, to give it a slightly different flavour”, the chef specifies.
The star of the sauces in Catalonia is the allioli, which combines, according to some, with everything, and also has olive oil as the protagonist. Tradition says that you have to arm yourself with patience and grind in a mortar a good amount of garlic to which that oil is added. Some people add an egg (or just the yolk) so that it sets sooner.