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: Soak the dried chile in the hot water until soft and pliable, 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and blot dry.
Step 2: Meanwhile, set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high.
Step 3: Place the almonds and hazelnuts in a dry cast-iron skillet and toast on the grill until fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan 2 or 3 times to ensure even browning. Transfer the nuts to a plate to cool. Rub the hazelnuts between the palms of your hands to remove the skins (don’t worry about removing every last bit).
Step 4: Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic on the grill and cook until darkly browned, turning to ensure even browning, 4 to 8 minutes per side, depending on the vegetable. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and let cool.
Step 5: Grill or toast the bread slice until darkly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Break the toast into several pieces, transfer to a food processor, add the nuts, and process to a fine powder. Add the vegetables and parsley and process to a coarse paste. Add the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper and
process to mix. The romesco should be thick but pourable; if too thick, add a little chile soaking liquid. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, sugar, or vinegar; the romesco should be highly seasoned. It tastes best served within a few hours of making.
Step 6: It will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for at least 3 days.
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