Romesco Sauces - Classic Romescu & Poblano Green Romesco
I guess there should be no real surprise that the cuisines of Mexico and Spain should share quite a few in laws via the shotgun marriage of Cortez and Montezuma. The prevalence for pork was one influence, though there's the school of thought that this was more likely a trade off for the Spaniard's eliminating dog from the Mexican's menu. However, this shouldn't diminish the apparent easily developed Mexican appreciation of rice, olives, and citrus.
More likely is an influence toward Spain. Hard to envision Spanish cuisine without tomatoes, peppers, chocolate, and potatoes. All ingredients unheard of in Europe before Spain began the slow and steady annihilation of indigenous North, Central and South American people and their culture.
OK. That's heavy. Let's take two minutes to appreciate that in ensuing years Spain also brought us paella, El Greco, amontillado sherry, manchego, Ribiero del Duero wine, Picasso, saffron and Almodovar just to mention the top end credits.
Truth be told, the recipe I'm about to offer to you was not inspired by some trans-cultural understanding of food history, but rather by an abundance of poblano peppers in my 2nd favorite caterer's walk-in. And that, if fact is often the Mother of Invention when it comes to recipe development; the caterer's version of "necessity".
But as inspiration occasionally reflects on the divine, this is truly a fabulous version of a sauce that is already 4 stars. Before I get ahead of myself, we should talk among ourselves about Romesco Sauce.
I was first attracted to the Salsa Romescu legend years ago in a recipe by Penelope Casas, truly the first lady of Iberian Cuisine when it comes to the US. This was back in the mid 80's before tapas had entered the mainstream of party food. When small plates was a pejorative for nouvelle cuisine. I was researching Spanish food to assist in the catering for the Metropolitan Opera Club's Gala which that year was celebrating Spain as it's theme. Ms. Casas had managed to source an entire Jamon Serrano, then unheard of in the United States, as well as a variety of Spanish cheeses, dulce de membrillo, fig cakes, the list went on and on. Yet I was completely befuddled when attempting to find a resource for the dried peppers that her recipe deemed critical to the success of Salsa Romesco. Yes, this is how it was in those dark years before the Internet made the world our oestra.
Fast forward 10 years or so and find Big Mary in gustatory bliss, savoring the sesonal treat of Calcots a la Plancha con Salsa Romescu in a sunny Barcelona cafe. Grilled Calcots being a uniquely Spanish treat, something akin to a cross between scallions and leeks. A truly authentic repast would have found Big Mary in the fresh country air, surrounding an open fire, peeling back the burnt outer layers of these oniony treats, before dipping them in the oil rich Romescu and consuming them, head thrown back with the panache of a side show sword swallower. Paints a picture, no?
But the best part was that I finally had enjoyed this deeply satisfying Spanish classic sauce, and was heady with the confidence I could recreate it back in Brooklyn. That I did, and have continued to serve it with grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, etc. along with the rest of America as Spanish cuisine has thrust itself into the world cuisine stage and promptly established itself as the leader of most things innovative in the planet's dining rooms.
And so I offer you both versions of Romesco Sauce; a classic Salsa Romescu with an appreciative nod to Penelope Casas, and the previously mentioned Poblano Green Romesco Sauce.
3/4 cup pure olive oil
1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 cloves fresh garlic, cracked
1 slice white bread, trimmed and cut into pieces - 3/4 oz
7 large red peppers
3 small canned whole tomatoes, seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Spanish pimenton (smoked paprika)or regular Spanish paprika
Roast red peppers over an open flame (or electric burner) until well charred on all sides. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to cool and then clean all of the burned skin from the peppers. Wipe clean. Remove seeds and discard. Set aside the cleaned peppers. You will need 1 quart approximately.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat until shimmering. Add almonds, bread and garlic. Cook until bread just begins to turn golden. Immediately remove from heat. When bread cubes are completely golden, drain, reserving oil.
Place cleaned red peppers, bread cubes, garlic, almonds, tomatoes and salt in a blender. Add half of the reserved oil and the sherry vinegar and blend until smooth. Add cayenne and pimenton and blend. With the blender running on low, slowly add the remaining oil until the sauce is completely smooth. Check and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Poblano Green Romesco
The only caveat I offer is that poblano peppers are notoriously indiscriminate when it comes to heat. Often they are as mild as a bell pepper, but sometimes they swell to a jalapeno level of spiciness. You can check the heat level by running your finger across the white membrane on the interior of a pepper. Touch your finger to your tongue and you'll have a idea of the heat level you are dealing with. If the poblano approaches incendiary, substitute a portion of the poblanos with a regular green bell pepper, roasted and peeled.
8 large poblano peppers
3/4 cup pure olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and cracked
1 slice white bread (3/4 ounce)crusts trimmed and cut into pieces
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Roast poblano peppers over an open flame (or electric burner) until well charred on all sides. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to cool and then clean all of the burned skin from the peppers. Wipe clean. Remove seeds and discard. Set aside the cleaned peppers. You will need approximately 14 ounces.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat until shimmering. Add bread and garlic. Cook 1 minute and then add pumpkin seeds. Cook until bread just begins to turn golden. Immediately remove from heat. When bread cubes are completely golden, drain, reserving oil.
Place cleaned peppers, bread cubes, garlic and pumpkin seeds in a blender. Add half of the reserved oil, salt and the sherry vinegar and blend until smooth. Slowly add the remaining oil with the motor running. Season with salt and pepper.
Add lime juice and cilantro right before serving.
So that's Danny Boy's inspired Green Romesco. Please remember this one when the weather sends us all back outdoors to grill some skirt steak. Or for those more tropical members of our family, head out to that hibachi immediately. Either way, this is great on chicken, fajitas, salmon, grilled vegetables... Hmmm just about everything it seems.
Contented Eating my Sweets,