Saturday, February 6, 2010

CSA Week 9 - Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce, Olive Oil Fried Egg

When we were last in Spain, we were fortunate enough to be there during calçot season. Calçots are a Catalan specialty, where they take a typical full-grown white onion and replant it, keep it mostly covered with soil while it sprouts, and then harvest it in late winter, when it's grown long shoots like a small leek. Traditionally, they're grilled over an open fire till blackened on the outside and tender within, then served with a romesco sauce for dipping. To eat, you peel off the blackened outer layer, then dip and dangle the onion over your mouth like a sword-swallower. In parts of Spain they have festivals - calçotades - dedicated to their consumption.

The four spring onions that came in last week's CSA box were hardly enough for a festival, but I find their mild sweet flavor pretty similar to calçots, and thought I'd duplicate the preparation on a small scale.

There are many variations on romesco recipes, but the standard components are dried peppers, hazelnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, paprika, and a touch of vinegar. Tomatoes make an appearance in many recipes, as do roasted red peppers - sometimes singly, sometimes in combination. I had not done a shopping trip in preparation, so my romesco was more of a raid-the-pantry version. The mise en place:

spring onionsromesco mise en place

Spring onions; dried guajillo pepper (soaking in hot water); toasted pine nuts; toasted bread; garlic; pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika); jarred piquillo peppers; olive oil; red wine vinegar. Not quite right, but it'll do.

The garlic, pine nuts, and bread (cut into small cubes) went into the food processor and were chopped to a paste. Then the chile pepper was chopped into small pieces and added, along with a drizzle of the soaking water, and processed. Next, the piquillo peppers, and a spoonful of pimentón. Then drizzle in olive oil - about 4-5 tablespoons - until it gets a glossy, creamy texture. The guajillo pepper was still pretty fiery, so I added a bit more water too. Finally, a drizzle of red wine vinegar to taste to perk up the flavors (I used about a tablespoon), and salt to taste.

This is more pungent and spicy than a typical romesco, but still pretty good. Most recipes I saw called for sweet rather than smoked paprika, and the guajillo probably packs more heat than the ñora peppers traditionally used in Spain, but if you're not afraid of bold tastes, both modifications will still pass muster. Next, the onions are rubbed with olive oil and hit the hot grill pan:

spring onions

I covered the pan for a few minutes to let them steam and grill at the same time, and with about 2-3 minutes per side these were tender with nice char marks. Then, since this was going to turn into breafkast, I toasted some bread, cooked a couple eggs sunny side up in hot olive oil, and final assembly:

spring onions w romesco and fried egg

These onions are marvelously sweet and tender, with just a hint of the typical allium bite. And the romesco has lots of other functions. Even made with more traditional components than I used, it's a robust, hearty sauce. It's good just with plain vegetables, raw or cooked. It's also very good with all but the most delicate fish, where I find it makes a nice flavor bridge to enable a pairing of red wine with fish. And it's got enough substance to match up even to a hearty steak - at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, for instance, you'll find it paired with a grilled short rib.

It's not quite a calçotada, but it's not a bad breafkast either.

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