Photo: Romesco with Beefsteak (Clifford A. Wright)
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Yield: Makes about 3 cups of sauce
Preparation Time: 2: 30 hours
Romesco sauce is originally from Tarragona. In Tarragona this preparation is as typical of the region as is paella in Valencia. Anton Gelabert, a painter from Barcelona wrote a book of romesco sauce called Llibre dels romescos. It is not important as a dish but is the sauce that goes with suquet, a fish stew, although the dish is called romesco. Suquet is a class of fish sauces, and means, literally, culinary preparation. Romesco is a vinegary-almondly sauce that begins with a sofregit of onions, garlic and tomatoes. This particular recipe I saw demonstrated at the now defunct Florian restaurant at Bertrand i Serra 20 in the Sant Gervasi section of Barcelona. The demonstration was held by the chef and owner Rosa Grau and her sous-chef Enrique Martin. I have adapted the recipe to be more suitable to an American home kitchen. Guindilla chiles are a mild chile and the chile you almost always find as a garnish on top of tapas in Barcelona bars. They can be replaced with any finger-type chile that’s not too piquant, such as Italian pepperoncino chiles.
1 large slice Italian or French country bread, crust removed
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted in an oven until turning color
4 medium onions, finely chopped
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more if necessary
2 heads garlic
9 large plum tomatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut in half, seeds squeezed out, and grated against the largest holes of a grater
2 roasted guindilla (finger) peppers, peeled, cored, and seeded
4 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled, cored, and seeded
3/4 cup good quality red and white wine vinegar (mixed)
- In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the bread until golden on both sides. Remove and place in the food processor with the almonds. Process until fine. Remove and set aside.
- Put the cut up onions in the food processor. Pull 6 cloves off of one of the heads of garlic, peel, and chop and place in the processor with the onions. Process both until very fine.
- In a earthenware casserole (preferably), heat about 6 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the sofrito of onions, garlic, and tomatoes until quite dense, about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. (If using a non-flameproof earthenware casserole make sure to use a heat diffuser. If using a regular flameproof casserole, use a reduced heat, perhaps medium-low). This is the romesco.
- Place the bell peppers and chiles in a saucepan or skillet with the wine vinegar and reduce the vinegar by three-quarters over high heat. Pour the peppers, along with the almonds and bread, into the casserole with the onion and tomatoes and cook until thick, about another 30 minutes.
- Transfer the romesco to the food processor again, in batches if necessary, and process as you drizzle in 4 to 6 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, making sure that you do not process for more than 20 seconds.