Romesco sauce: the terra cotta colored, thick, garlicy, spicy, zingy sauce you find dredged over seafood or smeared on bread at tapas bars. It’s the kind of thing that requires sunglasses, sangria, and a cool Mediterranean breeze. (Well, at least the sunglasses and sangria we’ve got covered. Wishful thinking on the breeze.) Romesco originates in Catalonia, Spain, and like any dish that’s been around a while, there’s oh, let’s see, roughly 10 thousand different versions and recipes. I know, because I went looking for a recipe this morning.
Unable to decide on just one, and unwilling to go to the grocery store for anything not already in my kitchen, this is my own adaptation. I can’t vet for its authenticity, but it tastes pretty darn good especially clinging to crisply roast new potatoes and blanched fava beans*. This is the kind of dish that makes you want to lick your plate. (I confess to nothing.) Eat it for dinner with a salad on the side or serve it next to grilled seafood or chicken. It’s equally good hot from the oven or at room temperature, when it takes on a vague resemblance to potato salad. Vague only because, richly flavorful and fresh, it’s miles away from the soggy, mayonnaise-y mess that is most potato salad. Enough to serve 4 as dinner with a salad or up to 8 as part of a larger meal.
*About the potatoes and favas: They came from Russo’s in Watertown. Sometimes I fanaticize about moving to Watertown just so I could shop there all the time. It’s a cook’s candy store, and incredibly affordable.
For the Romesco Sauce
6 to 8 blanched almonds**
6 to 8 hazelnuts
1 head garlic
3 slices stale baguette
1 medium tomato
1 large red pepper
1 small medium hot red chili of your choice (I used Fresno)
6 tbsp olive oil, plus 2-3 tbsp more
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
**Raw whole almonds can easily be blanched by boiling a small pot of water and taking it off the heat. Plunge the almonds in the hot water for 1 minute, then drain, cool, and peel off their skins.
For the Potatoes and Fava Beans
2 lbs new potatoes
2 lbs mature fava beans in their pods
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley for garnish
Blanche the Potatoes the Fava Beans
Set a medium pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes. Depending on their size, you may want to cut them in half. Set aside.
Shuck the fava beans. Set out a medium bowl full of ice water. Once the water boils, blanche the fava beans for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice water. Once cool, peel away the tough outer layer on each bean to reveal the bright green tender interior. Discard the peels and set aside the beans.
Add the potatoes to the boiling water and add more water to cover if necessary. Cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the Romesco and Roast the Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the almonds and hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Once cool, rub the skins off the hazelnuts using a clean dish towel and set aside.
Cut the top off the garlic and drizzle it with a little olive oil. Wrap in parchment paper or aluminum foil and place on a small baking tray. Cut the tomato in half and place it, along with the red pepper and the chili, on the tray with the garlic. Drizzle the tomato, red pepper, and chili lightly with olive oil and roast about 45 minutes until the garlic is very soft and the skin on the red pepper is blistered and peeling. Remove from the oven and cool.
After the vegetables have been in the oven 25 minutes or so, put the prepared potatoes into the oven to roast, about 45 minutes total, until very crispy.
Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Fry the baguette slices on both side until golden and crispy and then cool and drain on a paper towel.
Once cool, peel the red pepper and remove its seeds. Remove the seeds from the chili. Chop the pepper, chili, and tomato. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Set everything aside in a small dish.
In the bowl of a food processor, grind the toasted hazelnuts and almonds. Tear the bread into small pieces and process with the nuts. Add the chopped red pepper, tomato, chili, and garlic. Puree until smooth and scrape down the sides of the food processor. Slowly drizzle in the 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the vinegar and salt, scrape down the sides of the food processor once more, and puree again. Place in a medium size dish and set aside.
Once the potatoes are crispy, remove them from the oven and add the prepared fava beans to the hot pan. Stir to warm the beans. Spoon the romesco sauce over the potatoes and favas to coat – you may not want all of the sauce. (Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and eaten with bread or on sandwiches.) Spoon the coated potatoes and fava beans into a serving dish and top with the chopped parsley. Serve at once, or let sit at room temperature and serve within 4 hours.