Were you looking for a new romesco recipe? But not just another one for the files, like the one? Yeah, I could totally tell. That’s why I wish there were something else I could say, something more convincing and less prosaic than “this romesco the best I’ve ever had in my entire got dam LYFE” to let you know that this romesco recipe is, yes, the best I’ve ever had. In my life. This is the one.
There are probably as many variations of this Catalonian fisherman’s sauce as there are unopened pieces of mail in the old school built-in phone cubby by my front door, which is to say, la la la I can’t count because I’m too busy running in the other direction, to my kitchen where this romseco awaits. I suppose if you’re not as staunchly against putting roasted red bell peppers in romesco as I am, you have the internet on your side in terms of options. For me, though, a roasted bell pep just wont do. Team rehydrated chiles, all the way. I won’t even say that bell peppers will do in a pinch, because despite having tried in earnest when my local Fairway stopped carrying dried ancho chiles, I could never get a batch made with bell peppers to take on that level of zing! I enjoy so much in this version.
It’s the curse of experiencing the best version of something first. Nothing but the best will ever do. And because I had the best first, I now relish in throwing shade – aloud even, because I am such a treat to be around – anytime some bright orange hummus-looking business is masquerading as romesco. (Unless it's homemade, because that's just rude!) I recently had some at a catered art event, and let’s just say when art folks who are well-versed in dealing with pretention start eye-rolling at your romesco rants, you know you should probably shut the hell up. Doucheyness, apparently, is the price you pay for love at first bite.
But all douchery aside, this sauce is next level. It's endlessly applicable. It goes well with fish, grilled meats, eggs, on sandwiches, and with cheese, as noted in the original recipe. We like it best over simple roasted potatoes that are smashed and crisped up on the stove top just before serving, the way Suzanne Goin serves it for Sunday Supper at her restaurant Lucques. Though one of these days I’m going to get my act together and try it on a burger, which many respectable food lovers have noted, is over the top good, genius even. It’s rich and saucy, punchy and loud, and completely unashamed about any of it. Just like I’m going to be when I grow up.
Romesco Sauce, adapted from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques
5 dried ancho chiles
2 tablespoons raw almonds
2 tablespoons raw or blanched hazelnuts
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices plain white or country bread
½ cup crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Splash of sherry vinegar (optional)
Preheat oven to 370 degrees F and set a kettle or small pot of boiling water on to boil.
Remove and discard the chile stems and shake out the seeds. Place the dried chiles in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the chiles until they are all covered completely, soak for 15 minutes. Strain chiles and lightly pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove any stray seeds that stuck around.
Meanwhile, spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 8 to 10 minutes until they are golden brown and smell nutty.
Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl around the pan. Fry one slice of bread on both sides until golden brown like a grilled cheese. Remove the first slice to a plate to cool and repeat with a second tablespoon of olive oil and the second slice of bread. Once both slices of bread are toasted and cooled, cut them into cubes and set aside.
Return the pan to stove over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the chiles and sauté for a couple of minutes until the chiles darken slightly. Add the tomatoes and season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until the tomato juices have reduced almost completely and the mixture is a deep garnet red. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pan.
In a food processor, pulse together the toasted nuts, garlic, and fried bread until it has transformed into a coarsely ground meal. Add the chile-tomato mixture, and whiz until well combined.
With the machine running, slowly pour in the remaining ½ cup of olive oil and process until you have a smooth-ish puree. (Note: If you want your romesco to be completely smooth add more olive oil until you’ve gotten the texture you desire.) The romseco will “break,” or separate into solids and oil, so don’t fret; it’s normal. Stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if need be (I used one more small pinch, but no vinegar). Garnish with the chopped parsley and a splash of vinegar if using.