New World meets Old World for Columbus Day
Poached shrimp with Spanish Romanesco sauce.
Poached Shrimp with Spanish Romesco Sauce:
I’ve been making a version of this sauce for years and both the nuts and toasted bread give the dish its signature texture. This sauce will yield about four cups and can be doubled. Leftovers freeze well.
3 vine ripe tomatoes, left whole, but washed and dried
6 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil plus more for sauteing and drizzling
Salt and pepper
2 red peppers, roughly chopped
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ cups water
2 slices of crusty white bread
1 cup blanched whole almonds
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the tomatoes and the garlic on a parchment or foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the tomatoes and garlic with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour until tomatoes and garlic are tender.
Meanwhile, combine the red pepper, ancho chiles, vinegar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until peppers are tender. Strain mixture and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and fry the bread slices until golden brown on both sides. Add a bit more oil to the pan and toast the blanched almonds until golden brown. Toss ½ cup of the almonds with the smoked paprika and garlic salt and reserve for garnish. Place the remaining almonds, bread, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and chiles in the food processor or blender. Process until nearly liquefied and add ½ cup of olive oil in a steady stream with the machine running. Mix in the sherry vinegar and adjust seasoning.
For the Poached Shrimp:
8 cups of Water
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 lemon zested and sliced
2 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound 16-20 count raw, shell on shrimp
1 Tablespoon tarragon, chopped
Combine the water, onion, peppercorns, lemon slices (reserve zest), bay leaves and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow court bouillon to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp all at once, cover the pot and remove from heat. Let shrimp stand for 5 minutes before draining in a colander. Peel the shrimp and mix with a little olive oil, lemon zest and chopped tarragon. Arrange the shrimp alongside the Romesco sauce and garnish with tarragon sprigs and reserved seasoned almonds.MEL’S KITCHEN TIP:
Blanching Almonds: It makes sense to keep natural almonds on hand for quick healthy snacks, but peeling them for recipes like Romesco sauce seems like it would be more than a little challenging. Have no fear! Slipping those hearty nuts out of their papery skins is a breeze. Simply plunge whole almonds into boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and allow the nuts to cool slightly. The skins will peel away at the slightest touch. Toast or fry the blanched almonds and season to taste.
Updated: November 8, 2012 9:10AM
Departing from Spain and bound for the New World, Italian-born Christopher Columbus loaded up the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria with almonds, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and other traditional Spanish food staples.
Despite the fact that Columbus’ crew ate three meals each day, supplies were scarce and times were tough. Sure, the ships stocked beans and sardines, but it seems to me they were missing a few key recipe ingredients to keep those sea faring tummies satisfied. Thankfully a star ingredient was a mere ocean away.
Columbus is best known for making landfall in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492 and eventually establishing the first Spanish colony in the Americas. A controversial fellow, Columbus picked up more than a few captives in exchange for sharing a couple of deadly diseases, but the softer side of world domination takes a decidedly culinary tip.
History is a little murky on the subject, but in addition to unearthing a variety of culinary delights, many credit Columbus with discovering tomatoes and introducing the pivotal fruit to Europe upon his return.
The cuisines of both Spain and Italy were profoundly impacted by the introduction of the humble tomato. Combining tomatoes with several of the items known to be aboard Columbus’ ships yields an iconic Spanish dish known as Romesco sauce. Developed in the Catalonia region of Spain, Romesco sauce blends roasted tomatoes and garlic with blanched peppers and chiles. Those powerful ingredients mesh seamlessly with coarse buttery nuts and piquant vinegar to create a puree suitable for serving alongside robust meats and an array of fish and seafood.
Celebrated as a national holiday since 1937, Columbus Day honors the spirit of exploration, discovery and global connectivity. Columbus, like other explorers, bridged an ocean and influenced the way the world eats to this day. Columbus Day offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy a dish that may not have been coaxed into existence at all had a brazen world traveler failed to sail the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.