Saturday, April 11, 2009

Calcots: Scallions attain perfection

When we were in Barcelona last Spring we were lucky enough to be there at just the right time to try Calcots - grilled spring onions with Romesco. I had nearly forgotten how good they tasted until last week when Jeff and I had lunch at Casa Mono - the Mario Batali-owned tapas restaurant near Union Square. At Casa Mono, they used simple scallions served with Romesco. Two things are for sure: 1) scallions taste amazing grilled and 2) Mario Batali can do no wrong. If you ever get the chance, try this restaurant. Adorable and the food is fantastic. But back to the scallions...

We enjoyed them so much I was determined to make them at home. I flipped thru numerous cookbooks and found several recipes for Romesco. The Barbecue Bible even had one for grilled spring onions with Romesco. I followed Steven Raichlen's method for grilling the scallions, but for the Romesco, I turned to another of our favorites: Neil Perry. I made a few modifications, so here's my version. (Oh, by the way, this makes a lot of sauce so either make it for a crowd, have it a few times, or cut the recipe down...)

Grilled Scallions with Romesco
  • Scallions (figure one good sized bunch per person. they cook down quite a bit)
  • A little olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt

For the Romesco:
  • 6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 of a fresh red chili (about 4 inches in length) or use a few small ones, split and seeds removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 slice Italian style bread, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
  • sea slat and freshly ground pepper

To peel the tomatoes, cut a cross in the flat end of each and cut out the woody core. Dunk them for 10 seconds in boiling water and then immerse in an ice bath. This makes the skins peel easily. Then cut them open and remove the seeds.

You can use prepared orasted red peppers or make your own. I make them by sticking a pepper on a skewer and setting them over the flame of my gas stove and turning it until the skin is black all over. Use the same method on a grill. Once the skin is black, drop them into a brown paper bag and roll the top down. Allow to steam until cooled, them wipe away the black skin and discard the stem and seeds.

To make the sauce, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chilli, garlic, bread and almonds and cook until the bread and almonds are golden. Cool slightly then procees the mixture in a food processor with the red pepper and tomatoes. I pulsed it a few times to keep the sauce a little chunky. Wth the motor running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil. Stir in the vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the scallions, trim the end of the scallions slightly. Brush them all over with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Grill, turning them often until they have just a few grill marks. You want a little char but not a lot! And these little guys can burn quick so watch them carefully!

Remove them from the grill and wrap them in a triple layer of paper towels. Let them steam for about 8-10 minutes in the paper towels. (I stuck them in a warm oven to keep them from cooling). To serve, discard the paper towels and serve them on a platter with the Romesco on the side. The Romesco should be served room temperature.

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