One way to become a true Madrileño is to learn the customs and try out the traditions while living in Madrid. This means constant strolling through Retiro, eating churros after dancing all night, and sipping wine on a terraza. In the winter months, one great madrileño treasure is the cocido madrileño, a stew-like dish that will warm your bones after the harsh winds rip through tiny streets in Huertas and leave you congelado.
The history of this meaty, chickpea-laden meal isn’t 100% clear – some sources say cocido first emerged as far back as the Middle Ages, common in lower-class homes due to the relatively inexpensive cost of the ingredients. During the time of the Inquisition, many pork products such as chorizo and morcilla were added to typical plates of cocido, forcing some Jewish citizens to integrate these meats into the meals in order to prove they were Christians and avoid expulsion. Once cocido was finally accepted by high society, it became a staple of Madrid’s bar and restaurant scene during the Spanish civil war and has remained that way ever since.
Last week I read about the Ruta del Cocido Madrileño – similar to the Tapas crawls that happen once or twice a year around town. Having never tried cocido anywhere but at home, I called up fellow Guiri Guide author Laura and we headed over to Taberna Madrid in Plaza Jacinto Benavente to try their mini cocido – a safe stepping stone into the wild world of cocido madrileño.
Traditional cocido is often served in vuelcos, or “overturns”. Traditionally the ingredients all served separately – first the broth (caldo), then the vegetables, and finally the meat, which is where each vuelco comes in, as the pot is to be turned over to empty out that course’s contents. As you can see in the picture above, Taberna Madrid’s mini cocido is served all at once, in the form of a stew. This is less common than having it course-style, so if you want authenticity, demand it in vuelcos!
La Ruta del Cocido Madrileño runs until the end of March, giving you plenty of time to scope out your favorite restaurants and try a few different takes on this Madrid classic. Be sure to check the list of participating restaurants to see if you’ll need a reservation, and make sure you go on an eligible day. Cocidos range from 8€ to 35€ per plate, some with drink and dessert included. Aproveche!