Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Romesco Sauce

As the story goes, it all began in El Serralo, a neighborhood along the port of Tarragona. During the 1700s, fishermen would take ingredients that they had lying around -- such as almonds, bread, dried peppers, olive oil, salt and wine to create a sauce. That sauce would be served alongside whatever was left of their catch. 

As with most recipes, there may be as many variations on a romesco sauce as there are chefs and cooks who prepare it. However, there are three basic common rules. First, the base of the sauce usually consists of roasted tomatoes or roasted peppers (roasting the latter is slightly easier than roasting the former. Second, the peppers and tomatoes are pureed, thickened by the addition of almonds, and toasted bread. Third, the sauce is then emulsified with olive oil.  These rules get you to a sauce, which will be rich, and smoky, but it is what comes next that provides you with a truly wonderful sauce.

The variations in a romesco sauce relate to the additional ingredients that may make their way into the recipe. Ingredients such as garlic, chile flakes, and sherry vinegar. All of these ingredients add depth of flavor or heighten the piquancy of the sauce. One may also add paprika or smoked paprika, the latter if you really want to underscore the smokiness of the roasted peppers or tomatoes. 

One final note about this sauce: while its origins may lie with fishermen using the sauce to flavor fish and other seafood, a romesco sauce basically works with anything and everything. It is a great accompaniment to beef, chicken, turkey, and vegetables, as well as most fish and seafood. I prepared this sauce years ago to accompany grilled seafood, but the sauce showed its true versatility when I prepared it for our fondue dinner on New Year's Eve. 

Recipe from Gordon Ramsay's Cookery Course
Serves 4

2 red peppers
1 thick slice of ciabatta or farmhouse white bread,
     crusts removed and torn into chunks
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 vine ripe tomatoes (like plum)  on the vine
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chile flakes
4 tablespoons of blanched almonds, toasted
     and roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Prep the bell peppers.  Heat a grill until very hot.  Put the peppers on a foil lined baking tray and place under the grill.  Cook for 5 minutes turning regularly until he skin is blackened and blistered all over.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.  

2.  Continue making the romesco sauce.  Cook the bread chunks for 2 minutes in a small frying pan with a dash of oil, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute until the garlic is tender and the bread toasted.  By this stage, the peppers should have cooled and it will be easy to peel and rub off the charred skins.  Peel, deseed and roughly chop them, then place in a blender.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the peppers with the bread and garlic.  Blitz to form a rough paste.

3.  Continue making the romesco sauce.  Add the smoked paprika, chile flakes, almonds, lemon juice, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper to the blender and blitz until well mixed.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  With the motor running, slowly pour in 6 tablespoons of olive oil.  Taste and adjust the seasoning again if necessary.  Allow the sauce to come to room temperature and stir well before serving. 


No comments: