Romesco is a classic finishing and dipping sauce from Spain based on pimiento, roasted sweet red peppers. I first tasted it in the Catalonia region near Barcelona on a crystalline spring day in the 1970s on a grilled calcot, a fat green scallion. Several little villages have spring festivals centered around calcotada (plural of calcot) and romesco sauce, and restaurants in Barcelona often serve the dish.
The sauce is so versatile it is also used for other vegetables (it is especially good on broccoli, cauliflower, and grilled asparagus), chicken, beef, fish, and even snails. Above I have poured some on grill baked stuffed poblano peppers with crice and cheddar.
We will amp it up by fire roasting the ingredients on the grill.
Makes. 1 pint, enough for about 1 pound of asparagus or calcots
Takes. 40 minutes.
1 large sweet red bell pepper, sliced in half, cored and seeded
1 dried ancho pepper, sliced in half, cored and seeded
2 medium plum tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 small onion
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 sandwich sized slice rustic bread
1/2 cup high quality olive oil
1/2 cup slivered, skinless almonds
1 tablespoon paprika, smoked if you have it
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
About the almonds. If you wish, you can substitute pine nuts or hazelnuts for some of the almonds.
Optional. If you wish, especially if the final sauce is too thick and pasty, you can add a splash of anisette liqueur. Go easy.
1) Soak the ancho in a small bowl of hot water until it softens, about 20 minutes. Drain and put it in a food processor or blender.
2) Preheat the in 2 zones. On the direct heat zone, grill the peppers on both sides until the skin blackens, but try not to blacken the inside. Place them in a bowl and cover it with a plate so the steam will loosen the skins. Peel the skin off, chop the meat coarsely and you should have about 1 cup more or less. If it is a lot less, grill some more. I usually grill more than I need, and store the extras in a zipper bag in the freezer. When you have about 1 cup, dump them into the food processor or blender.
3) If you have raw tomatoes, slice them in half, put them on the grill cut size down and roast until they start to darken and shrivel but not blacken. Then flip them over and cook until the skins blacken. Let them cool, peel the skins (if you don't get them all off it's not a problem), coarsely chop, and dump into the food processor. If you are using canned tomatoes, they go straight into the processor.
4) Skin and slice the onion in half, pole to pole so the root will hold the layers together. Grill the onion on both sides until it darkens and softens, but does not turn black. Remove, cool, coarsely chop and into the pool with the peppers and tomatoes.
5) Roast the garlic. You really only need 4 cloves but I usually do a whole head and freeze the extras. If you don't want to do a whole head, just lay 4 cloves on foil, coat lightly in oil, and put them on the grill for about 5 minutes on each side or until they brown. Then they go into the processor.
6) Lay the slice of bread on the heat and toast it on one side only. Don't let it burn. Chop it coarsely and toss the chunks into the processor.
7) Put 4 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan, put it on medium heat, and add the almonds. When the almonds start to turn golden, add the paprika, chipotle, salt, and pepper. Stir, and after about a minute, remove from the heat, add the vinegar to help loosen the goop in the pan and dump into the processor. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if you wish in order to get as much of that flavor out of the pan as possible, and that goes into the processor.
7) Add the remaining oil and lime juice to the processor, and whup it until it is pureed, about 2 minutes. It will never get really smooth. It should be thinner than a pesto, but not runny. If needed, add water to thin it. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, chipotle, vinegar, and lime juice if you wish.
8) You can pour it in a serving bowl and serve warm or spoon a dollop or 3 on each serving or refrigerate for several days.