Jul 22nd, 2008 by Amy
As you know, we received a beautiful package from a fellow blogger in Spain and we have been slowly using all the contents in various meals. Another element of this package was a jar of Spanish Marcona almonds. These almonds are amazing on their own and taste incredibly different (sweeter and meatier) than the almonds we know here in the States. I decided the first thing I wanted to try to do was a Romesco Sauce. This meal came together quickly and using things that were already in my fridge so I refuse to call this an authentic Romesco – but it’s close! Romesco is a classic Catalan (specifically from Tarragona) thick ‘dressing’ made with a variety of things including almonds, garlic, bread, olive oil, peppers, pimenton (paprika) and tomatoes. There are many variations of recipes for Romesco as some use hazelnuts, red wine vinegar, onion, some roast their tomatoes and garlic and sometimes mint is added. Romesco is served as an accompaniment to many dishes, but most often with fish and seafood and sometimes with poultry and veggies.
The most popular ways to serve classic Romesco with vegetables is with the famous Spanish calçots. Calçots are a variety of longer, thicker and sweeter scallions that are also grown in Tarragona, Catalonia (a perfect local pairing!) and are produced in a very specific and time-consuming way with a season lasting only from January to March. Every January or February the calçots are harvested and many Catalonians celebrate this with a huge calçotada or a kind of calcot fiesta. At this big party, Catalonians sit at long tables and consume pounds of calçots which have been charred on a grill of burning vines and then wrapped in newspapers in order to finish cooking in steam. The participants dip the fleshy, sweet insides of the calçots into romesco and wash it down with copious amounts of red wine. Meat and bread are often grilled right after the calcots are. I am hoping to one day taste these beauties but mostly I’m excited to one day be part of a calçotada.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the festivities of a calçotada, check out this great YouTube video. You don’t need to understand Spanish to understand it.
Anyways, back to the meal we made. Earlier I mentioned that I called my sauce a Romesco-esque sauce because I kind of was forced to use what I had in my kitchen. I did not have any of the dried sweet peppers called nyora which are normally used but that was probably because they are very hard to come by here in America. In fact, I didn’t even have the substitute that is often used here such as an ancho pepper, so I used what I had (and, purists, I know you’ll kill me because Romesco should never be spicy but I needed to use up a half of salmonella-free jalapeno). Also, Romesco should always be made with fresh tomatoes and I didn’t have any so out came the jar of crushed tomatoes. I also decided to thinly slice some fennel and an onion and sweat them down slowly in a pan with some olive oil. After a half hour of slowly sweating down, you get the sweetest most delicious “relish” which I topped our grilled fish with as well.
In the end, all the flavors melded together perfectly. Maybe it was the crunchiness of the grilled trout skin, possibly the moist trout flesh mixed with the smokey, sweet and nuttiness of the Romesco-esque sauce or it could have been the bliss of having a bit of crunchy potatoes with the moist fish along with the sweetness of the onion/fennel relish? Whatever it was, this meal was a homerun. I hope you try your hand at making Romesco and maybe you have a good story of attending a calçotada?
GRILLED RAINBOW TROUT WITH ROMESCO-ESQUE SAUCE AND FENNEL-ONION RELISH – serves 2
Ingredients for fish and fennel-onion relish:
- 1 whole rainbow trout, gutted and cleaned
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- salt and pepper
- 1 fennel, thinly sliced (use a mandoline – it’s easier)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced (I used vidalia onion for it’s sweetness
Ingredients for Romesco Sauce:
- 6 tablespoons crushed tomatoes (or 4 roasted tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoons Spanish sweet pimenton (or sweet paprika)
- 10 Marcona almonds (if using other type of almond, make sure they have been pan-roasted for a minutes and the skin is removed)
- 1 piece of toasted white bread (crust removed)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 of a pepper, traditionally a dried red pepper (I used jalapeno – not traditional at all, but gave it a little kick)
- 1/2 head of roasted garlic
- 1 sprig of mint
- olive oil
- pinch of salt
What to do:
- Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan and on medium to medium-low heat, cook your onions and fennel down for about 20 to 30 minutes until very soft and translucent. Do not let them brown and make sure you stir every few minutes.
- Roast your 1/2 head of garlic in a 475 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes (or until soft inside). Allow to cool before using.
- Make your Romesco by adding the bread, almonds and pepper first and grind up finely in the food processor. Next add the other ingredients (don’t forget to squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins!) except the olive oil and salt. Blend until smooth. Finally, with the food processor going, slowly add the olive oil in a slow stream until the Romesco is thick and fully emulsified. Taste for salt and add to your liking.
- Rub your whole fish with the butter and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Throw on a hot grill and cook until firm on both sides (about 5 to 7 minutes per side depending on size of fish).
- Eat fish whole or fillet the fish and top with some romesco sauce and a tablespoon of the onion/fennel relish. Serve with greens or crispy roasted potatoes. Drizzle some olive oil all over before serving.
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