Where there is a good plate of steaming escudella i carne d'olla, let everything else be removed. Including another popular stew, Asian ramen, which continues to be all the rage in European cities. In Barcelona, without going any further, for many years queues have formed at the entrance of establishments that serve it at an affordable price. And yet it is increasingly difficult to find the traditional escudella i carne d'olla, which in many homes long ago became a gastronomic relic on the tables on Christmas Day.
But trends can always take a turn; or so the renowned Catalan chef Jordi Vilà trusts, who has undertaken his own crusade to combat ramenmania. The issue, according to him, is not so much about eradicating it, but rather about making ramen coexist with escudella i carn d' Olla, which he thinks should be normalized, like so many other specialties of traditional Catalan cuisine. And one way to achieve this is to take it to the streets, “just like our mothers and grandmothers did,” and adapt it to a new format.
For this reason, it has just launched its Escudella Street, a takeaway version that will be sold with the soup, in which the different previously gelatinized meats are submerged in a terrine that they heat in a large pot of broth before serving. Organic meats cut to a size so you can eat with a spoon. It is cooked for 15 hours and among the ingredients, shank, chicken, pork cheek and snout, cured jowl, black and white sausage; also potato, turnip, carrot, cabbage and chickpeas. And, of course, there is no shortage of the typical pilota, which Jordi Vilà defends with pine nuts and, above all, without garlic!
The chef assures that, without going against any other tradition, the time has come to bet on the escudella: “Normalize it and make it attractive to young people.” That's why the question was asked: What if instead of a dish to eat at home or in a restaurant, we served it in a biodegradable glass and we could eat it on the street, warm and succulent? This is how they will ship it starting next week in the new Va de Cuina store (Comte Borrell, 54) that will be opened by the chef of the Barcelona-based Alkimia and Al Kostat and whose interior design is signed by Sofia Gidlööf. It is his second establishment of the same name (in Sarrià they will also sell it, in both cases at 12.80 euros per portion) and it is a few steps from the Sant Antoni market, of which he confesses to being an enthusiast.
Vilà has dedicated his professional life to studying, reviewing and working on the evolution of traditional Catalan cuisine to create his dishes. The stew and meat of the pot, without a doubt one of the most representative, as is the particular stew of each territory, has been one of this chef's obsessions. Last year he surprised the diners at Al Kostat with a novelty, the escudella i carn d'olla made in a very interesting version, based on game meats. He did it with a menu served in two sequences, the first more subtle, with poultry and replacing the traditional galets with ravioli stuffed with pheasant immersed in a succulent consommé, and the second more forceful, with partridge meat stuffed with gizzards, deer loin, black hare sausage, wild boar cheek, pheasant ball or stewed duck. A successful experiment that has been repeated and that is already being served these days, cooked for 72 hours not only with the aforementioned meats but also with autumn and winter tubers, such as potatoes, black turnip, goat's beard, yellow beet and carrot.
But the desire to turn the traditional version (there are many versions of escudella) into a popular street cuisine dish goes far beyond that singular exercise with hunting. Vilà's work in his stores is aimed at taking artisan cuisine to the limit to be able to serve it in the quantities he can afford with the most natural ingredients and without resorting to ultra-processed ingredients or artificial preservatives, for which he uses analysis in a renowned laboratory.