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You are either a sauce person or you’re not! I have always been committed to sauce. From the beginning of my culinary adventures there always seemed to be a good reason to put some delicious sauce on everything. In my earlier years, I often chose rich, heavy, calorie-laden sauces that hid the flavor of whatever it was covering. Today, I have found many ways to highlight the natural flavor of foods to elevate a dish without so many extra calories. (Mayonnaise on french fries is the exception. That’s just good eating!)
This week’s dish features a traditional Spanish sauce called Romesco sauce. This is actually the national sauce of Spain, and there’s a reason Spaniards have been devouring it for centuries. It’s so versatile and delicious! It can be used as a marinade, a spread, a pesto or a sauce.
Romesco sauce is traditionally used by Spanish fisherman as a sauce for cooked seafood. This sauce is also a great way to enhance barbecue meats and vegetables. It can even be used as a dip for chips, pretzels, vegetables, crackers and flatbread. It works as a spread on crostini, sandwiches or burgers and as a sauce on pasta. You can stir it into soups or stews for added flavor and use it as a marinade that will form a crust on the exterior of roasted meats.
You can find it bottled but, as with most things, it is far better freshly-made. Luckily, it’s also super easy to make. The flavor is a bit smoky from the char-grilled bell peppers. The best part is that it’s creamy and rich, yet contains no cream.
Today I’m using it as a grilling sauce on chicken. With 5 cloves of garlic in this recipe, along with smoked paprika and roasted peppers, the flavors seep into the chicken making it deliciously moist and tender. This dish pairs perfectly with Spanish red wine, which complements the bold flavor of the sauce. Heinen’s is featuring a variety of beautiful Spanish and Portuguese wines right now, so the time is right for this recipe!
Smoky Spanish Romesco Sauce
- 2 red bell peppers (see note 1)
- 1 tomato quartered
- 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices of white sandwich bread, crusts removed (see note 2)
- 1/2 cup of natural almonds (see note 3)
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Preheat barbecue grill or gas stove on high, and char grill whole red peppers until black and blistered all over. (see note 4)
- Place peppers in a bowl and cover for at least 20 minutes. The peppers will cool and sweat, allowing the skin to slide off easily. Peel and discard the skin and seeds, place remaining pepper in a blender.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place tomato and garlic on foil, drizzle with 2 tsp. of olive oil and wrap tightly. Place foil packet on a baking sheet. Add bread and almonds onto the tray. Bake for 5 minutes until bread is golden. Remove bread and almonds.
- Tear bread into pieces and place the bread and almonds in the blender with the peppers.
- Continue to bake the garlic tomato packet for an additional 25 minutes or until tomato an garlic are tender. Open foil, dump contents into the blender. Add all remaining ingredients to the blender. Run blender on high until sauce is smooth, adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- You can use 1 1/2 cups of store-bought bell peppers (drained). It will not have the smoky flavor, but it will be similar.
- This is one of the few times I use ordinary white sandwich bread because it blends easily into the sauce. To make this dish gluten-free, substitute with gluten-free bread.
- You can use roasted almonds instead. Just reduce the time you toast them in the oven by a few minutes.
- The char on the red pepper is how the smoky flavor get into the sauce. I set the pepper directly onto the burner of my gas cooktop and leave it for a few minutes until it turns black. Turn with metal tongs and repeat until it is black all over. This can also be done outside on a barbecue grill.