we can do this the easy way or the hard way.
there are a lot of steps here.
there are lots of ingredients to toast or roast and peel. soak and chop. saute and puree. here are some of them. the photogenic ones! also the ones i didn’t forget to pose.
note to self: do not become a wedding photographer. although, who ever looks at those lined up photos anyway??? sigh. two years later, i still have post-traumatic bridal stress disorder.
back to the romesco. it makes everything better. we even served it at the wedding. at the meats on sticks station! yum.
and don’t worry. about the wedding or all the steps to the romesco sauce. they’re worth it. and they’re (generally) a great way to spend a saturday afternoon. and i’ll tell you when you can cheat – in the sauce, not the marriage.
are we done with that metaphor? i hope so.
romesco is a spanish sauce that is mostly peppers, tomatoes, nuts and bread. sounds weird but it is deeply satisfying. it’s smoky, with a nice balance of sweet and bitter peppers, a touch of acid, a little chunky. it’s a substantial sauce. there are lots of ingredient and lots of steps, but don’t be intimidated. that just means lots of ways to make romesco the way YOU want it to be.
here’s how i make romesco. i roast something.
i take a break and go sweep the cat litter in the bathroom. i wash my hands. thoroughly. gross. i come back and toast something. something like hazelnuts.
then i go wipe down a counter or water a plant. i have house cleaning ADHD.
back to the kitchen! we’re going to take the skins off stuff!
roasted red pepper. after you thoroughly blacken the skin – either on the stove or under the broiler, turning constantly! – let it hang out in a ziploc and get steamy. then the blackened skin slips right off. super easy. but you know what? the stuff that comes in a jar works too! and looks slightly less creepy than this denuded red pepper.
the secret to taking those skins of the hazelnuts is rubbing them in a dishtowel. a nubbier towel would have worked better than this, but isn’t it pretty?! thanks mom.
hazelnuts are a traditional ingredient for romesco. toasting them offers deeper flavor – and taking the skins off will make a prettier sauce. i mixed them with marcona almonds (fancy pants spanish almonds that are super salty and a little oily but in a good-put-more-in-my-mouth-right-now kind of way) but you could just use marcona almonds. or just regular almonds. whatever floats your boat.
also going on during my toasting/roasting/prep/cleaning time is soaking some ancho chiles. nora chiles are traditionally the central ingredient in a romesco.
my whole foods doesn’t carry them, and grocery stores are limited here in the urban metropolis that is NW DC. i’m pretty sure i couldn’t pick a nora pepper out in a line up. ancho chiles, according to my “extensive” research, are a common substitute in romesco.
but, here’s the “secret” to my romesco.
it really is more of a glorified red pepper sauce. i like the sweetness. i add the ancho for a little bit of that smoky bitterness. but whenever i try to go old school and use mostly dried peppers, i am just disappointed.
and, there are way too many steps here to not luuuuuurve the results. because once you’ve roasted and toasted and soaked and chopped, you need to saute the ingredients together. let them meet and mingle. cocktail hour style.
in this stage, you’re adding the bread, tomatoes, and garlic.
they’ll really get to know each other in the food processor.
in a nod to the somm, i don’t add oil to make it saucy. i used some chicken stock and some spanish white wine . . . this time a viura-chardonnay blend. viura. the somm and i spent our whole trip to rioja making people say it for us and failing to replicate the sound. the v . . . not a v. some weird v/f hybrid. the inflection . . . much more nuanced than the american tongue is prepared to take on. who would have thought txakolina would be easier to say! sigh.
luckily, romesco is SUPER easy to pronounce. and super easy to make, if you can stick through the roasting-toasting-soaking-chopping.
and good on so much stuff. burgers. roasted potatoes. crudites. a spoon. dig in!
Roasted Red Pepper Romesco
Smitten Kitchen has a good recipe too.
- 2 red peppers
- 3-4 peppadew peppers (or just use more red pepper or piquillo, like the NY Times)
- 1 dried ancho chile
- 1 medium to largish tomato
- 6 cloves garlic (I am garlic CRAZY. use as much as seems reasonable to you)
- Handful hazelnuts (NY Times called for 15. Hilarious. Please, do not bother counting out your hazelnuts)
- Larger handful marcona almonds (or, you know, 25)
- 1 cup cubed baguette, stale or slightly toasted
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 healthy sqeeze of lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (This is Spanish paprika. I bought mine in Spain. You don’t need to, they sell it here, but don’t use regular paprika, it won’t get the job done.)
- Chopped fresh thyme
Soak ancho chile in hot water for about half an hour until soft. Remove seeds. Roughly chop.
Blacken the red peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler. Place in a ziploc bag for 5 to 10 minutes, then slip off skins. Coarsely chop.
Toast hazelnuts until dark brown but not black. Fold into dish towel and rub to remove skins.
Slice slight X in bottom of tomato – just enough to break the skin. Blanche in boiling water for a minute, then peel. Or skip this because you just can’t handle peeling ONE MORE THING. Use canned tomatoes. Or just leave the skin on. It’ll add some fiber, that’s good, right?
Saute bread, nuts, garlic for a few minutes, until you can start to smell the garlic. Add the tomatos. Then the peppers.
Throw the mixture into the food processor. Start the processor. As it runs, add the liquids. Season to taste with paprika, salt and pepper. Garnish the with fresh thyme. The sauce will have texture. Delicious texture.