A group of neighbors go to the square with chairs, and some carry a pot they bought from the house. This image has returned to many towns and city neighborhoods in Aragon this summer. They are popular dishes at that time of year when neighbors gather around a paella, a stew, a fideuá or some miga. enormous, cooked to unusual proportions.
“We prepared 2300 kilos of potatoes and about 400 kilos of bull meat, as well as snails and vegetables such as mushrooms, onions or peppers,” says Cella councilor Santiago Navarro. There’s a big party in this town of Teruel this weekend: the XXI Potato Fair. On Sunday, it’s time for a stew made by one of his neighbors with the help of a group of volunteers from town that hasn’t stopped finishing the details this week. For example, this Friday, two years later they were struggling to clean the big pot without putting it in the wood. “We have much more desire this time,” they warn in Cella. “We prepare about 3,000 servings and it’s usually not leftovers every year,” says Navarro. The recipe is fully measured after many years of tradition. Navarro remembers they will be handing out 700 potato tortilla sandwiches this Saturday.
This weekend, the Pastores chefs, whose stews are never short of Ternasco de Aragón, also have work to do. “Our most requested dishes are lamb and borage rice, sea and mountain fideuá, lamb stew, jugs a la jardinera and lamb stew a la espeta”, points out the team’s head chef, José Luis Soriano. They prepare the food on the spot and at least 100 portions. “We came to prepare something for up to 10 thousand people,” they recall. Sources for these amounts are up to the mark: “The largest paella pan is three and a half feet in diameter.”
The pandemic has paralyzed that tradition, but this year it’s back. “It looks like they missed us and applauded stronger than in other years,” Soriano laughs. Although they may not reach the 2019 levels. They accomplished that in Giant Aragonese Paellas known as Joma: “We’ve surpassed that this year. 2019”. Javier Moros, the third generation in business, along with his brother Aitor, lists local festivals, schools or universities in Spain because they work in other autonomous communities such as La Rioja, Navarra, Catalonia or Soria, despite having workshops in Alhama de Aragón. where they travel with paellera in the car. 85% of their service is paella – seafood, mixed or vegetable – but they also cook stews, fideuás and migas. “The most successful is the mix that includes chicken, squid, rabbit, and mussels,” says Moros. Their biggest job is 7,000 servings.
How do you ensure the rice is in place? What’s the trick for no one to protest the salt? “For salt you have to try and for rice you have to use the best of Spain we have in Aragon: El Brazal,” says Javier, who has used it at home since the company’s inception. Forty years ago her grandmother Manuela founded it, later her father Mariano continued, and now they are the ones who follow the kitchen trail with clients with more than 30 years of tradition.
The popular dish in Paniza is also a well-established tradition, but in this town’s case, it’s made by the residents themselves. “This is a beef stew that used to be sacrificed by matachín. There are about 250 kilos of meat and 95 potatoes, then carrots, onions, green asparagus, mushrooms…”, one of the cooks, Jesús Gracia, details. It’s in the stoves. 1,200 people ate the stew last weekend. “This is the culmination of the festivities, a friendly dinner in the square,” Gracia applauds. These are just a few examples, but the tradition is repeated in Aragon.
Whoever makes or does not make this dish has a word that appeals to generosity with the servings: “It’s better than not losing”.
They can freshen up the summer song, children’s games, or conversation topics, but popular foods remain intact. “We already have a 2023 agenda with appointments, August is starting to get complicated,” Moros said.
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