I remember once reading an article about the American palette that claimed America’s favorite flavor was ‘crispy’. Synesthetic quips aside, there’s a certain truth to this assertion, and I think that it’s not in any way limited to those of us who hail from the United States. As sure as the sky is blue and the grass green, people the world over love their food crispy. It is both a thread that binds cultures together and gives them a space to exhibit their diversity. We love fried food, and we have so many different ways to show it.
Spain’s principal contribution to the world of fried sweets is undoubtedly the churro, a more or less flavorless stick of fried dough that is to be dipped in hot chocolate. Growing up in California, I was never unfamiliar with the churros that are a staple of county fairs and theme parks. Warm and covered with cinnamon and sugar, they are a treat that conjures up memories of summer, rollercoasters, family outings, and the magic of meeting Mickey Mouse.
It is easy to see how one arrives at that American churro from its Spanish antecedent, but Spanish churros (‘xurros’ in Catalan) are something else. The name comes from a particular breed of cattle, whose horns these fried treats are said to resemble. They are not properly Majorcan, and are associated more with the interior of mainland Spain, where they are commonly eaten as a breakfast food. The first time I visited Spain, in Madrid, I remember how astonished I was to see people eating for breakfast what was to me obviously a dessert. Some people even chose to forego the chocolate and dip their churros directly into their morning coffee (I didn’t try this myself more than once – the only result is a soggy churro and a greasy cup of coffee). Chocolate, however, is the perfect complement. Traditionally it is thick and hot (that’s what she said?) – I remember thinking upon first taste that it was more like hot chocolate pudding than what I had previously experienced as hot chocolate.
In Madrid one can find a good churro all over, but they’re more difficult to come by here in Majorca. The general consensus is that the best xurros are at Xurreria Rosaleda, on a steep little street in the very center of Palma’s old city. The astute reader will recognize the family name from my previous column on granissats; the same dessert-driven family runs both establishments. At Xurreria Rosaleda, families line up out the door on holidays to sate their kids’ sweet tooths with fried goodness. The crowds declare what anyone who’s eaten here knows: They make good churros.
To make these good churros, Xurreria Rosaleda equips its fryer with a special contraption to let a string of dough out at an even pace into a vat of hot oil. Then a metal rod is used to shape this string of dough into a spiral. Once fried to a golden brown, this spiral is taken out whole and chopped into pieces, each one a hand-sized arc to be dipped into coffee cups of chocolate. Like any fried food, it is best consumed with as short an interval between fryer and table as possible. This is why Xurreria Rosaleda is a great place to visit when it’s crowded – your churros won’t be sitting around, waiting to be ordered.
I recently stopped by with friends when Xurreria Rosaleda had just opened after the afternoon siesta, and we got to eat from their very first batch of the evening. A communal plate was set before us, and, armed with paper napkins to keep our hand grease level to a minimum, we dug right in. Some people choose to pour some sugar out over their churros, but I think that is overkill. I don’t want anything more than the crispy dough and strong chocolate.
A good walk – and maybe a beer – was in order after that grease fest of a snack. Although I can’t really imagine myself having churros for breakfast more than once in a blue moon, I find the custom charming. I suppose it’s ultimately not that different from some of the pancakes and waffles one finds on the American breakfast table, but it is conspicuously decadent: the breakfast of children eating with their eyes, starting their day with a carnival treat. Fins la pròxima!
Costa de la Pols, 12 Baixos
07003 Palma de Mallorca