04.16.11: dinner (Rostit de Festa Mayor and the first of many Clásicos in the next two weeks)

Rostit de Festa Mayor (Holiday Roasted Chicken)

Four FC Barcelona/Real Madrid matches in eighteen days: it’s enough to make the most ardent Spanish football fan both excited  and terrified at the same time, because so much can happen in one game, much less four. It’s hard in America to find something to relate this phenomenon to, and the best I can offer is to imagine the Yankees and the Red Sox competing for three separate titles over the course of two weeks–it would be crazy and as a fan you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself so you’d likely sink into a banquette of a sports bar either in Manhattan or near Fenway, drinking beers and rapidly losing your grip on sanity as the games proceeded.

I’d use the Subway Series as another example, but that would be too low a blow to Mets fans right now.

I’m channeling much of that nervous energy into cooking (or at least planning meals), to the point that I peeled an entire head of garlic in 45 minutes thanks to a whole lot of antsiness during the hour leading up to the first game–a rematch of the Liga clásico that saw Barça destroy Real Madrid 5-0. Given how the teams have played since then this wasn’t considered the most important of the four, but being the first the anticipation was very high nonetheless.

Pa amb tomàquet (Tomato Bread)

Since the game was on in the late afternoon (including an hour into our normal prep/cooking time) peeling the garlic was at least something of use I could do–the recipe really didn’t call for much else save for the peeling of some small onions (though we used white shallots we had picked up at the greenmarket instead). The main prep work was Michael breaking down a chicken, a task he tends to find enjoyable, and then browning the pieces prior to brandy, shallots and garlic being added to the party and the whole pan going into the oven to be roasted.

Rostit de Festa Mayor

This is considered a holiday chicken recipe, generally appropriate to serve on the feast day of one’s city, town, or village in Catalonia (it usually corresponds to the feast day of the town’s patron saint) and accoridng to Coleman Andres there are countless ways to make it. I’m a big fan of this recipe he shares in Catalan Cuisine because while it is simple in its ingredient list, the end result is luxurious and very celebratory. While ham or lamb are generally the typical Easter centerpiece dishes here in the States, I urge you to switch it up and give this a try, especially if you’re not cooking for a huge crowd this year.

(As for the first clásico, it ended in a tie: 1-1. It was insane: the only goals came from penalty kicks, one red card was issued, and about 500 (in reality seven) yellow cards were handed out. Today will mark the next leg: the Copa del Rey final in Valencia. I’m hoping by the time this goes up I have something to make, because I predict I’ll have some very antsy fingers come 3:30 PM.)

Rostit de Festa Mayor

adapted from Catalan Cuisine by Coleman Andrews

  • 1 4-5lb chicken (Michael prefers kosher)
  • 2 tablespoons lard (Yes, lard. It’s better for you than shortening or margarine and stores in the freezer.)
  • Olive oil
  • 6 small white onions, peeled and left whole, or 3 medium onions peeled and halved, or 8-10 small white shallots peeled
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup brandy (the recipe calls for cognac, but we got a small bottle of brandy instead because neither of us drinks it, and even small amounts of cognac can be expensive)
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and then bring an ovenproof skillet, roasting pan or cazuela to medium heat with the lard and a little olive oil and brown the chicken pieces thoroughly. Once that point has been reached, add in the shallots (or onions) and garlic and stir to coat evenly with the lard and oil, and then add the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf, and season it all with some salt and pepper. Pour the brandy or cognac over the chicken and then place in the oven to roast uncovered for about 1.5 hours, turning the chicken over halfway through and basting every so often with the pan juices.

To serve, spoon some of the sauce over the chicken pieces after plating and serve it all with either fried potatoes or pan-fried slices of sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes like we did here.

¡Buen provecho! or, rather, ¡bon profit!

  1. i am snort-laughing all the way thru this post Elizabeth!! i do not follow soccer . . . i’ll pause for a moment to let your heart calm down . . . but would love to be a fly on the wall just to watch YOU watch the game! and this dish looks absolutely perfect – cinnamon and brandy? bring it on!

  2. Marta said:


    (I can’t believe RM is actually playing well today! OMG! Have fun with the game!)

    • GAAAAAH! That game was insane. Congrats to RM…and now onto Champions League!

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