Calçots (a.k.a. Charred Green Onion Deliciousness) and Romesco
Ahhhh, calçots–I didn’t know that word until about 5 minutes ago when I Googled it. The event that inspired said Googling is the memory of that slow-motion moment when Bourdain (Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations) donned a kitschy red checked bib, slipped the blistered skin from a green onion, dunked it in romesco and feasted! He was at a calçotada, a Spanish party where you grill masses of the tender green and white beauties and swill wine from a porró. I thought to myself, “Now this is a party I could really get behind!” Grilling, check! Drinking obscene amounts of wine from what looks like a blown glass neti pot, check! Jaunty red-checked bibs, check (I spill things on myself–a lot–it’s hereditary and I can’t help it)! From what I witnessed on the show, it seems to be perfectly acceptable, possibly even encouraged to spill wine on yourself at a calçotada. I would fit in beautifully.
Since travel to Spain is not probable in the foreseeable future, I decided to create my own version–Southern style! Spring onions are a fixture this time of year in our CSA deliveries and this is an interesting and entertaining way to highlight their delicate flavor–although, you could probably dip a tennis shoe in romesco and it would taste good. I had the main ingredient, the onions, and just happened to know of a few friends that were looking for a good excuse to grill. Southerners will grill at any time for any reason, so this is not surprising. The only possible kink in my plan were the forecasted “scattered thunderstorms” for that evening. I wasn’t worried, much.
The thunderstorms held off and the onions grilled up beautifully. We had two kinds of Spring onions–long, thin ones that resemble either small leeks or large green onions and several that were more bulbous and onion-like at the bottom. For this recipe, I recommend the long, thin ones. They grilled more evenly and were easier to stuff in your mouth–which is what everyone did once we brought out the romesco. Oh my, the romesco. It was slathered, spooned, and smeared on just about everything we ate–asparagus, bread, chicken…One guest even mentioned thinning it with broth and serving it as a soup, which you could absolutely do. Add in a tomato and a cucumber, and you have a scorching rendition of gazpacho. So good! It really stole the show.
Cooking time varies greatly depending on the size of your onions, so keep an eye on them–just grab a cocktail and some tongs and park yourself in front of the grill.
2 bunches of spring onions
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and Pepper
An empty cooler
Trim the root ends off of the onions. Drizzle onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill onions on a charcoal grill with a medium-hot fire or a gas grill, heated to medium-high. Continue to turn onions as each side blackens. When onions are blackened on all sides, remove from grill and wrap in newspaper. Place onions in an empty cooler for 30-45 minutes to steam.
To eat: Grasp the onions at the top of the light green part (just before the onion branches out into separate green stalks). Twist this part of the onion and pull the blackened part off, leaving you with a clean, white column of onion. Dunk unabashedly in romesco, tilt your head back, and wind into your happy, waiting mouth. Alternately, dip in romesco and place on a slice of crusty bread.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
This romesco is an amazing sauce. If you have leftovers, it is great tossed with pasta, spooned over any vegetable or meat, poured over an omelette, etc. I used pistachios here but feel free to substitute toasted almonds.
2 cups of jarred roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 cup of shelled roasted pistachios
1 chipotle in adobo
1 slice of bread, crusts removed (I like to use sourdough)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat of a knife
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 Tablespoon of honey
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Put everything except olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Turn the food processor on and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Continue processing for 1 more minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put on everything.