The Evasive Calçot and the Promiscuous Romesco

April 22, 2012
Author Notes

The calçot is a member of the allium family (I think it's in the sub-genus allium fistulosum). It falls in the class of bunching onions, but is unique to Catalonia where it was developed in the 1800’s. It’s similar in some ways to spring onion, but the bulb end is elongated.

In this recipe, I substituted Mexican green onions, which have a large, round bulb, are inexpensive, and grill up nicely. You will need a wood charcoal fire (they don’t use briquets in Catalonia). You NYC apartment dwellers can have a dispensation and use a ridged grill pan, but maybe try the real thing on one of your weekends in the Hamptons. The romesco is my standard recipe. Consider this as a side for grilled meat or fish, or just use some toast points. —pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

The pitch-perfect romesco sauce makes this dish sing, but the grilled spring onions are mighty tasty all on their own. Both are easy to prepare, but one does need to set aside time for the onions to steam after grilling and for the peppers to soak. Pierino’s unusual method of wrapping the onions in newspaper and plastic wrap for one hour yielded onions with a soft, buttery texture and a charred, intensely sweet flavor. When making the romesco, I recommend using top quality ingredients, because this condiment is all about letting gutsy, vibrant flavors shine. This sauce was so delicious that I couldn’t resist stealing spoonfuls straight from the bowl. —cookinginvictoria

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • Calçot
  • 8 Mexican green onions
  • 3 pounds lump wood charcoal (like oak or mesquite)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Romesco
  • 2 to 4 dried peppers, I like Spanish Noras* or cascabels, soaked in water for 2 hours
  • 2 slices stale, crusty bread
  • 3/4 cup light Spanish or Californian olive oil
  • 3 to 4 ounces Marcona almonds
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt
In This Recipe
  1. Build a fire in your grill.
  2. Brush the onions with olive oil.
  3. Grill onions over a low flame until they begin to char on the outside.
  4. Remove from the grill and wrap them with newspaper. Wrap the whole thing with cling wrap and allow this package to steam for at least one hour (thank you for that tip, Colman Andrews). You want the bulb ends of the onions to become creamy and soft.
  5. While the alliums are resting in their package, make your romesco
  6. Cut the tops off of the soaked peppers. Seed them and chop them roughly.
  7. Lightly toast the almonds. You can do this on the stovetop, or in a sheet pan in the oven.
  8. Cut up your bread into cubes. Chop the garlic
  9. Place peppers, almonds, and bread in your food processor and pulse. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar. Hit this with sea salt to taste.
  10. Serve the romesco with the grilled onions. Your guests can slide off the burnt skin with their fingers.
  11. *You can find ?oras on line through La Española or Surfas

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Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.