The most famous sauce in Catalonia, romesco is a gutsy puree of tomatoes, garlic, and fresh and dried chiles bound together with two characteristic Catalan thickeners: toasted bread and ground almonds. Traditionally, these ingredients would be roasted in the oven to intensify their flavor before pureeing. That set me thinking about an even better way to heighten the flavor: charring the vegetables and bread on the grill. Catalans would use a dried chile called anorra. These are difficult to find in the U.S., but a Mexican ancho or pasilla chile makes a good substitute. (In a worst-case scenario, you could use one to two tablespoons of chile powder.) Romesco is traditionally served with grilled seafoods, chicken, and meats. I like to eat it straight off the spoon.
Step 1: Place the anorra chiles in a bowl and add warm water to cover. Soak until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes.
Step 2: Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid, and blot the chiles dry with paper towels. If a milder sauce is desired, remove the seeds.
Step 3: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
Step 4: When ready to cook, preheat a vegetable grate (if using) for 5 minutes, then brush and oil it or the grill grate. Brush the bell pepper and tomatoes with olive oil and grill until the skins are nicely charred, 10 to 15 minutes in all. Place the garlic and onion in a small bowl and toss them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then arrange them on the hot grate and cook, turning with a spatula, until nicely browned all over and aromatic, 4 to 8 minutes. Grill the slice of bread until nicely browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Grill the soaked and drained anorra chiles until crisp and fragrant, about 20 seconds per side. As they are done, transfer the grilled vegetables, bread, and chiles to a platter and let cool.
Step 5: Remove any very charred skin from the bell pepper and tomatoes; core and seed the pepper. Transfer the tomatoes to a food processor or blender and puree to a smooth paste. Add the grilled garlic, onion, bell pepper, bread, and anorra chiles, and the almonds, bay leaf, parsley, wine vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the sauce with salt and black pepper to taste. Process until smooth, adding enough of the reserved chile soaking liquid to make a pourable sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar and/or salt as necessary.
Step 6: Serve the romesco sauce at room temperature; it will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for at least 3 days.
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