Smoke.Oil.Salt’s Perfecto Rocher Serves Treasured Spanish Stew Like a TV Dinner

The restaurant launches its new Monday night service with a feel-good meal that would make a grandmother proud

Smoke.Oil.Salt—which Los Angeles magazine anointed as one of the best new restaurants of 2014—will start its new Monday dinner service on February 16. Mondays will be when chef Perfecto Rocher dishes up a special meal called putxero (pronounced poo-chero), which translates as “stew pot” and is a national comfort food of his native Spain. Fundamentally, putxero is a stew of meats and vegetables. Rocher’s particular take on this slowly simmered pot of goodness is inspired by the Valencia region from where he hails—although, in fact, it’s his grandmother’s recipe at work.

There might be as many styles of this stew as there are wines in Spain. The Catalan variation, for example, goes by the name ollada and incorporates ham bone. In Madrid, blood sausage and chorizo distinguish the stew.

At Smoke.Oil.Salt, the putxero is chock-full of vegetables native to Valencia: napicol (turnips), chickpeas, rutabagas, parsnips, and cardoon stalks. Adding a pleasant texture is a short pasta called fideo. The big four of animal proteins—beef, pork, chicken, lamb—all contribute to the putxero’s heartiness. Rocher also enriches the stew with bacon and bone marrow for extra lusciousness.

The presentation of this feel-good meal pays homage to the feel-good meal of another era—the American TV dinner. Rocher plates each component in its separate compartment on an aluminum tray, cleverly un-stewing the stew so as to allow each ingredient to shine on its own while still being seasoned by its neighbors’ characteristics because they were all cooked in the same broth. Rocher achieves this result by neatly separating the raw ingredients and wrapping them in cheesecloth. Traditional ways of making and serving putxero employ a similar technique.

Just-so tender vegetables like chickpeas and Anaheim chiles, plus succulent chunks of pork belly, beef, and lamb frame the centerpiece that is the pilotes, a juicy oblong meatball-like mixture of ground pork, pine nuts, eggs, milk-soaked bread, and seasonings all wrapped within whole napa cabbage.

Another drool-worthy item is the fried chicken leg, which is cooked skin-on in the same pot then removed, dried, battered, and fried. It’s permeated through and through with the stew’s flavors while covered in a crispy brown crust. This element is unique to Rocher’s grandmother’s recipe.

Kalimotxo is made with Coca-Cola and red wine.
Kalimotxo is made with Coca-Cola and red wine.

Photograph by Eddie Lin

From grandma’s recipe to a TV dinner tray presentation, everything about the putxero at Smoke.Oil.Salt coos comfort. But if you really want to feel good, drink a glass of ice-chilled kalimotxo (pronounced kali-mocho) that’s paired with the stew. It’s equal parts Coca-Cola and red wine, like Spain’s equivalent to Red Bull and vodka. This cocktail is big during the running of the bulls at the festival of San Fermin. Hey, I’d run with any bull if I knew there’d be putxero waiting at the end.

redarrow Smoke.Oil.Salt, 7274 Melrose Ave,, Los Angeles, 323-930-7900, now open Mondays for putxero, $35 per tray, with desserts and drinks available a la carte. The restaurant is partnering with reservations app Table8 to offer exclusive prime-time tables for the Monday dinners.