Romesco is a nut and pepper based sauce indigenous to Northeastern Spain. The fishermen in that part of the world created it to go with their fish. The peppers they use have a lot of heat. Jamie Purviance, who created this recipe, has swapped out the hot peppers with poblano chile peppers, a milder version from Mexico.
The sauce is actually quite salsa-like on the tongue. Besides the poblanos, check out the ingredients: cilantro, almonds, jalapeño, garlic and lemon juice. While the instructions call for grilling the poblano peppers, I actually cheated and roasted them right over my stove burners. That eliminated the need for me to have my grill going for two cooking sessions...which is a challenge when cooking with fast burning lump charcoal.
For the shrimp, it is critical that you use smoked paprika. It makes the shrimp both spicy and smokey and therefore the perfect complement to the romesco. The contrast between the shrimp and the sauce is so delightful, you will end up wishing you had made a double batch of each. This recipe serves four.
For the Romesco
2 poblano chile peppers, about 8 ounces total
½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 small jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Shrimp
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound large shrimp (21/30 count), peeled and deveined, tails left on, patted dry
- Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
- Grill the poblano chiles over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until blackened and blistered all over, 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the steam. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the charred skin, stems, and seeds, and then coarsely chop the chiles.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the poblanos and the remaining romesco ingredients and process until well blended but some texture still remains. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.
- In a medium bowl whisk the oil, salt and paprika. Add the shrimp and turn to coat in the mixture. Grill the shrimp over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until firm to the touch and just turning opaque in the center, 2 to 4 minutes, turning once.
- Serve the shrimp warm with the romesco sauce for dipping.
Pairing: If you are partial to red wine, try a Zinfandel. If white's your thing, try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. For me, I'd wash this great dish down with my favorite beer!