The first time I had rossejat was at the restaurant of the El Far hotel, high atop a cliff in Llafranc, Girona on the Costa Brava of Catalunya. The hotel is so named for the Sant Sebastian lighthouse nearby which rises bright and high into the night sky, towering over the jet black sea that thrashes loudly against the beach below. The restaurant uses primarily seafood brought in fresh from the coast nearby. The kitchen specializes in preparing these as rice and noodle dishes in large cast iron skillets from which they are served directly to parties of 2 or more. Walking into the restaurant it becomes clear pretty quickly what the must-order item is. It’s the panfried rossejat of noodles or of rice, with prawns and cuttlefish, octopus and crab thrown on.
Rossejat is the traditional Catalan noodle variant of paella. Inch-long strands of thin, vermicelli type noodles called fideos are cooked in a seafood broth and then allowed to crisp up in the pan after the liquid evaporates. Some of it sticks to the bottom and must be scraped up, resulting in a crunchy, toasty bits mixed with softer patches inside. Unlike paella, rossejat has only a light layer of seafood topping it. Only one or two prawns adorn a large pile of noodle, making the latter the center of attention in each bite.
El Far’s rossejat de fideos at was delicious. The strands of noodle had tremendous flavor, a very defined seafood essence rounded out by notes of nutty caramelization. The textures were great too, crunchy in some parts and starchy in others, coated in just the right amount of good olive oil to make each forkful glossy and smooth. The cubes of cuttlefish in there were beautifully tender, the prawn fresh and sweet. On the side was a bowl of fluffy Catalan allioli to spoon on and mix in. Alas, my dining companions and I were party-bound. They were too cool for garlic and I, always desperate to fit in, pushed the bowl away with feigned repugnance when in fact I was dying to try the stuff. Ah, the pitfalls of peer-pressure.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this dish. I first heard about rossejat in reference to the menu at Jose Andres’s Jaleo in D.C. I never ended up trying his version. I’m glad my first experience with the Catalan classic was in Catalunya instead.