I dithered a bit about the title for this recipe. Should it be squid with romesco or romesco with squid? If this was a Hollywood musical (bear with me) the sauce would be Ginger Rogers and the cephalopod would be Squid Charisse. In a fight over top billing, Ginger would probably win, no matter how long and lithe Squid’s tentacles were.
I speak as one who loves squid in all its forms, although my original plan (don’t tell Squid) was to use octopus, but the fishmonger didn’t have any. Don’t ask me who Hollywood Octopus would be, probably flashy old Gene Kelly. Fred is more of a cuttlefish. But I’m wandering from the point here.
Romesco is one of the great Catalan sauces and it works really well with both squid and octopus. If you are not a fan of things with tentacles, try it instead with griddled vegetables such as fat spring onions, baby leeks or asparagus.
Traditionally it’s served with calçots, which are somewhere between a leek and a spring onion, so you’d be in good company.
Its chief ingredients are almonds and hazelnuts, dried sweet peppers (and optionally, a chilli pepper or two) and tomatoes. In Catalunya you would use ñora peppers with perhaps the addition of some guindilla chillies.
These are available from specialist stores although Colman Andrews, in his book Catalan Cuisine, suggests substituting ancho chillies with a small piece of fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, in which case fry the fresh chilli briefly.
There are probably as many recipes for romesco as there are supporters of Catalan independence and that’s a lot, but the one I give here is a distillation of a number of different versions I’ve tried. It owes a lot in the methods used to José Pizarro, chef and author and all-round nice bloke, whose cookery books are well worth seeking out.
Ask the fishmonger to clean the squid for you or if you’re a sucker for punishment (sorry) check out one of the many online tutorials.
Squid with Romesco Sauce
1 kg squid, ready prepared
Roughly chopped parsley, a handful
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon quarters, to serve
For the romesco:
50g blanched almonds
1 x 35g slice of bread, crusts removed
3 medium tomatoes
2 ñora peppers
2 guindilla chillies
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
A handful of parsley
1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or more, to taste)
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste
Pull the stalks off the dried peppers and chillies and empty out the seeds. Soak in warm water for two hours, then scrape out the flesh with a teaspoon. Place in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
Heat the grill to high and cook the tomatoes until the skins are blackened and the flesh cooked. Set aside to cool, then skin.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the almonds, hazelnuts and fried bread until golden. You can roast the nuts in a 200C oven if you prefer but as you have to fry the bread anyway, it’s just one more process. Allow to cool.
Add the tomatoes, nuts and bread to the food processor or mortar. Throw in the garlic and parsley and add a tablespoon of sherry vinegar. Pulse or pound until you have a chunky paste. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste.
Check and add more sherry vinegar or oil if you think it needs it. Colman Andrews says it should be “thickly liquid”; mine’s usually a bit thicker than that. Set aside, covered, for the flavours to meld: it’ll keep in the fridge for several days.
Cut the tentacle end off the squid and slice it in half lengthways. Cut the pouch into 50 mm rings. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on a very high heat and cook the squid for a minute or two only, in batches if necessary, otherwise it’ll toughen up.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir through the roughly chopped parsley and serve straight away, with lemon to squeeze over and the romesco sauce on the side.