Sauces #2: romesco
What is the "real" recipe? Or what is essential and what is optional to make a good, tasty and reasonably "authentic" version? What are the best uses? Thanks.
From what I've been reading, romesco has tomatoes, nuts (usually almonds or hazelnuts), garlic and chili. There are many variations. I've been skimming a cookbook on Catalan cooking which has 3 basic versions. It's used on vegetables, fish, meats. When I was in Barcelona I had it on all kinds of foods - it's a wonderful sauce, spicy and rich-tasting but not heavy.
Suzanne Goin has a recipe for romesco which she puts on roasted potatoes. That's on my list of recipes to try.
This is based roughly on a recipe from Gourmet sometime last year. It's delicious. As with all of these dip-style sauces, you can experiment with many of the ingredients. There's more than one right way!
Another good recipe comes from the Moro cookbook, which I recommend very highly. I believe it's just been published in the US.
1 large tomato (1/2 lb),
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and loose skins rubbed off
2 tablespoons blanched almonds
1 (1/2-inch-thick) slice firm white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup drained bottled pimientos, rinsed
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a small baking pan with foil.
Roast tomato in pan until tender and skin peels off easily, about 30 minutes.
While tomato is roasting, slit chile open lengthwise and discard stem and seeds, then tear chile into small pieces. Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then add chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant and chile turns a brighter red, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer chile with a slotted spoon to a heatproof bowl. Add hazelnuts to skillet along with almonds, bread, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until bread and garlic are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mixture (including oil) to chile in bowl and cool slightly.
Peel tomato, then coarsely chop and transfer (with juices) to a food processor. Add bread and chile mixture, pimientos, water, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and purée until smooth. Thin with water if desired and season with salt.
This is from my review of the Feb 2005 Food and Wine recipe, taken from a Ferran Adria recipe. I have tried Goin's recipe, as well as recipes from the Tienda.com website and Mark Bittman's Best Recipes in the World, but this is my favorite so far:
Here it is, with my deviations in parentheses. The recipe calls for using either a large mortar and pestle, or a food processor. I took the easy way out. I think the recipe makes almost 2 cups, so you would want a mortar that's 4 cups or more to leave enough room for pounding and stirring.
Leeks Romesco with Crumbled Garroxta cheese (Garroxta is a semi soft Catalan goat's milk cheese, I used ricotta salata) :
1 sm red bell pepper
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 c blanched whole unsalted almonds (I used roasted, not blanched)
1/2 c cubed firm textured crustless white bread (I used 3 pepperidge farm sandwich slices)
2 garlic cloves, smashed ( I used 3, after picking out the green shoots)
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped (I used 2 1/2, since two of my three tomatoes needed bad spots cut out)
3 tbsps sherry vinegar
salt & cayenne pepper (I used a dash of hot sauce, and two spoons of kosher salt from my salt piglet spoon)
6 med leeks, white & light green parts only, halved lengthwise
1/4 c chicken or low sodium stock/broth
4 oz.=1 c. crumbled Garroxta ("garrochta") or other semi aged tangy goat cheese
Crusty bread for serving
Brush the pepper with evoo and roast over gas flame or in broiler until charred all over. Cover in a bowl w/plastic wrap 15 min., then peel and seed. Cut into thick strips.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp evoo until shimmering. Add almonds, cook over med. heat, stirring, until golden, appx. 5 min. Dump onto cutting board and let cool. Coarsely chop. (I skipped the chopping, since I used a food processor.)
Heat another tbsp. of evoo in the same skillet, over med. heat, add bread cubes and toast until golden and crisp, appx. 5 min. Transfer to a plate. (I dumped them in with the almonds, since I was processing, not pounding.)
Heat another tbsp. of evoo in the same skillet, med. heat, add red pepper strips and smashed garlic cloves, cook until garlic is softening and lightly golden, appx. 5 min. Add the chopped plum tomatoes, cook another min. Transfer to mortar or food processor bowl, let cool. (Mine cooled for 15 min.)
Add the almonds to the pepper mixture and either pound into a coarse paste, or pulse in processor. Add the toasted bread cubes and 1 tbsp. more of evoo, pounding or pulsing until amalgamated. Gradually add 1/4 c evoo more, until again amalgamated. Stir in 2 tbsps. sherry vinegar, and season with salt and cayenne. (I pulsed the pepper mixture, them dumped in the bread/almonds, half at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition and pulsing. I drizzled the evoo and sherry vinegar in while pulsing. I stirred in the salt and hot pepper sauce after taking it out of the bowl, and transferring to a glass bowl.)
In a large deep skillet, heat 2 tbsps evoo until shimmering. Add the leeks and cook over med. heat, turning occasionally, until softening and lightly browned, appx. 10 min. Add the chicken broth and 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, season with salt and cayenne, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat 10-12 min., until tender. Let cool, then drain.
Arrange leeks on platter, spooning half the sauce over the leeks. Sprinkle crumbled cheese on top, and serve the rest of the sauce on the side, along with crusty bread.
(Green beans variation: I put 2 tbsps evoo in my 12" saute pan, and tossed in topped & tailed, snapped in half green beans. I added about 1 tsp. kosher salt, six grinds of black pepper, stirred, and covered. I stirred occasionally, over medium heat, and let the beans get browned and wrinkly looking. When they were done, I deglazed the pan with 2 tbsps. lemon juice and a tbsp. sherry, and stirred until evaporated. I put a dollop of the sauce on top, and crumbled ricotta salata on top of that.)
The romesco sauce keeps, covered, for up to 4 days in the fridge.
I toast or fry the almonds and the bread. Gives the sauce some smoky undertones that are far more interesting than without. Also be very picky about the pimentos and chilis you use to get a more authentic taste.
Try to get the right peppers--dried ñoras. This is the main flavor of the sauce. Regular red peppers, chilis, etc. won't really give you the right flavor. From there it is simple:
Soak 5 ñoras for an hour. Heat up a good amount of olive oil* and make a sofrito with 2 onions, 6 cloves of garlic, and 4 tomatoes (seeded and skinned--not all versions have tomato)--all chopped very fine. When it is getting sauce-like, thin with a bit of "fumet" (fish stock) or water and cook for another five more minutes. Then run it through a food mill and, if you want it really smooth, through a strainer.** With a mortar and pestle, make a smooth paste of the 5 ñora peppers, toasted or fried marcona almonds (50g), one or two garlic cloves, and some cubes of bread that were fried in the olive oil (optional). Add this to the sauce and cook for another four or five minutes.
*Often, Romesco sauce is served with flour-dusted, pan-fried seafood, crustaceans, etc. you can cook the fish first and then use this oil to make the sauce. Don't skimp on the oil.
**At this point, if you already cooked the fish or shellfish, you can add them back in.