Romesco, romesco where have you been all my life? What’s not to love about a piquant and savory sauce whose primary ingredients are sweet, juicy tomatoes and red bell peppers – especially in September, when these vegetables are at their peak in Michigan. And your waistline will surely appreciate a lusciously rich sauce that’s thickened with almonds and bread, instead of butter and heavy cream.
This classic sauce from Tarragona, in Northeastern Spain, is typically made from any combination of nuts, tomatoes, peppers and bread with the remaining ingredients left to the palate, whim and discretion of the cook. I decided to season my Romesco with saffron, Spanish sherry vinegar, and Marcona almonds – ingredients typically used in Spanish cuisine.
Romesco is marvelous on grilled pork, and the following recipe is a perfect dish for entertaining at this time of the year. But it can be tricky cooking pork for a dinner party – everyone has an opinion as to the proper level of doneness. I have friends who prefer pork rare, and others who insist it’s cooked completely through. My taste falls in-between to medium-rare; pink and juicy in the center.
My pals in the well-done camp are concerned about trichinosis. But according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention website, infection from trichinosis these days is relatively rare. During 2008–2010, only twenty cases were reported on average per year; most cases associated with eating raw or undercooked wild game meats. According to the CDC site, “…The number of cases decreased beginning in the mid-20th century because of legislation prohibiting the feeding of raw-meat garbage to hogs.”
It’s still hard convincing those with a trichinosis mind-set that they should adapt their palate. But no worries: cooking 2-3 tenderloins makes it easy; cook each tenderloin to a different level of doneness – everyone’s happy.
The following recipe serves eight – perfect for a dinner party – but is easily divided. If making for company, the directions can be adjusted so that the dish may be made ahead. I didn’t want to be monitoring a grill, juggling pans and a food processor after my guests arrived, so I did the cooking in advance.
Here was my plan: I grilled the vegetables and make the sauce two or three hours before show-time. Then, I under-grilled the pork to 135 degrees and wrapped it in foil, reheating both sauce and pork prior to serving.
For a side dish, I boiled large, quartered redskins in salted water until they were just beginning to tenderize but still firm. After draining, I tossed the hot potatoes with olive oil, a bit of butter, dry vermouth, chives and additional salt and pepper to taste. I covered the pan and let them soak up the flavors and tenderize in their residual heat to perfection, quickly reheating before serving – marvelous with the Romesco.
Charcoal and hardwood lent a smoky flavor to the vegetables and pork, but if grilling over gas, I’d rub Spanish smoked paprika into the pork before grilling.
This makes a big batch of sauce and you’ll likely have leftovers. All the better. It keeps well refrigerated up to a week, and is delicious tossed with pasta, draped over grilled vegetables, fish or chicken, stirred into a lentil soup, or used as a dipping sauce for vegetables or crostini.