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What is romesco?
Romesco is the most typical Tarragona dish that we can offer in our city’s restaurants, which mainly serve fish and seafood, but also meat and game. Moreover, it as a cold sauce that goes very well with starters, fish, seafood and meats.
The elderly folks say that romesco first appeared on the small fishing boats in the Serrallo district, and it is documented from the start of the XX century, using the ingredients they had within reach: garlic, dry bread, dry peppers, oil, salt and wine, which they ground in a mixing bowl and then sautéed in a casserole, adding the fish of the day and making a “suquet” ( a dip) that they called romesco.
Each fisherman had his own unique recipe, adding some variations (his secret) like hazelnuts and almonds, tomato, chili, biscuits, etc…
It became popular half way through the last century and romesco has been present since then and up to this very day in the Tarragona restaurants and homes, where each cook’s special recipe has been handed down from parents to children.
Sauce or dish?
To start with, we should say that one wouldn’t exist without the other. Therefore, they need each other, they complement each other, but they are also different, mainly because the sauce goes along with the meal and, on the other hand, the meal is the food cooked with the sauce.
The sauce is normally served cold, along with muscles, grilled fish, vegetables or meats. In these cases their names are “muscles with romesco”, “monkfish with romesco” or “oxtail with romesco”.
However, when we speak about the dish then romesco will always have the last name: “monkfish romesco”, “octopus or squid romesco”, “rabbit romesco” or “oxtail romesco”. So always ……romesco.
The sauce is better known than the dish but, as we have already said, they are complementary and can share the same menu: first some aperitifs with romesco sauce and then the main course, the romesco.
How to make cold romesco sauce
1 head of garlic
2 romesco peppers
3 slices of dry bread
2 ripe tomatoes
100 gr. roasted almonds and hazelnuts
Oil, vinegar, salt and sugar
Roast the garlic heads, leaving a raw clove aside. Roast the ripe tomatoes and peel the skins off and remove the pips. Fry the bread (don’t burn it), and place on kitchen paper to absorb the oil. Steep and blanch the romesco peppers in order to remove the pulp. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and blend adding a pinch of sugar, salt, some oil and vinegar (a little). Add salt or vinegar to your liking and let it cool.
and the romesco mix
1 head of garlic
3 romesco peppers
4 slices of dry bread
150 gr. roasted almonds and hazelnuts
Oil, wine and salt
Fry the unpeeled garlic in oil, separate three cloves that we will use raw. Afterwards, remove the garlic skin. Fry the peppers without seeds, a few seconds, taking care not to burn them. If they burn, start again. Fry the slices of bread and remove oil on kitchen paper. Put all the ingredients in a bowl, a small glass of good wine, a pinch of salt and blend.
How to make ..romesco
Once we have the romecso mix we put it in a casserole where we will cook the romesco. If the base is a roast then we should sauté it a little in hot oil. If the base is fried then we should directly add the hot broth that we have on top of the sauce, in small amounts, with a wooden spoon we stir the mix with the broth until it is liquid and the sauce is consistent or clear, depending on whether the cook prefers it thicker or not. We add the fish or meat in quite big cuts, about five or ten minutes simmering, add salt or broth to your liking, remove from hob and let it settle a while, and, let’s eat!!
You could add potatoes, better old ones than new ones. Add them before the fish, ten minutes so they simmer with the mix and get the flavour, afterwards, add the fish or meat, add salt or broth to your liking and the most complete romesco is ready.
You can also add white beans which, once rinsed, can be added just before the fish.
We have said all this to try to explain and transmit that romesco is a dish that is alive, old and up-to-date at the same time, traditional but also avant-garde, a dish that is ours and that we hope will also become yours: TARRAGONA ROMESCO.