With a rustic romesco sauce as a base, the Spanish fisherman’s stew Romescada is a nutty, peppery mélange of seafood and spices.
Romesco is a classic sauce from Catalonia traditionally made from hazelnuts, almonds, garlic, peppers and olive oil, and uses fried day-old bread as a thickening agent. It is often served on steak, fish, pasta or other local dishes as a paste-like spread or roughly emulsified sauce, and individual recipes can vary household to household.
However, the standard chiles and nuts sauce can also serve as a base for a stew called romesco de peix (“romesco with fish”), or simply romescada. Specific recipes vary and are quite flexible, with the one constant being the base sauce. The most difficult part of this dish is constructing said sauce, which isn’t truly difficult and can also be used for many other dishes.
Romesco usually includes toasted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts), garlic, chiles (pimentón, fresh and dried) and stale bread. Ground into a coarse paste with select spices (Spanish paprika plays wonderfully), enough olive oil is added at a drizzle to create a pasty, thick dough-like base that can then be thinned with stock or cut with sautéed onions and tomatoes for serving.
The choice of seafood is wide open. As Catalonia is more Mediterranean than Western European, virtually anything can be included: monkfish and prawns are traditional, but lobster, whitefish (flounder is used here), squid, clams, mussels or even octopus would not be inauthentic. A fresh variety is always preferred over any prescribed specifics.
Serve with crusty toasted bread, or even roasted vegetables for dipping. Premium olive oil or chile oil would also work well at service.
2 lb mixed seafood (whitefish, shellfish)
1 white onion
14.5-oz can tomatoes (crushed)
1 c white wine
8 oz clam broth
For the picada:
2 slices of bread
1 red bell pepper (roasted)
2 cloves of garlic
1 ancho chile
¼ c almonds
¼ c hazelnuts
1 t smoked paprika
1 Toast the nuts until fairly dark, about 10 min. Add the ancho to enough hot water to cover and let steep for 10 min (discard the water). Fry the bread in a little olive oil until browned and dry, then cut into cubes.
2 Make the picada: Add nuts, bread, garlic, ancho, bell pepper and seasonings to a food processor with a little oil. Process in stages until crushed into a rough but uniform dry paste, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3 Finely chop the onion and sauté in a little oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 min. Add the picada and tomatoes and cook for about 5-10 min, stirring to incorporate.
4 Add the wine, clam broth and 4 c water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min. Add the seafood and warm over low heat until cooked through. Add chopped parsley, and season to taste.