Back in October, Chaser and I took a little time to eat and drink our way through Spain. Barcelona and Madrid, to be more specific. We’d need a lot more than 8 days to make our way through all of Spain, but it’s on our to-do list, no doubt. Both cities were beautiful and fascinating and definitely similar, but also markedly different. Which one did I like better? That’s a question far too complex to answer in one word, and I’ll be sure to tackle it in my full trip recap (which is coming… I promise).
I love Barcelona and Madrid each for different reasons, but one thing that was consistently amazing in both cities was the food. Spain has a food culture unlike anywhere else in the world, and it was so thrilling for me to finally experience it firsthand. I became enamored with the flavors of Spain long before I was ever able to travel there, which is one of the reasons why it ranked so high on my list. Ingredients like smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, and anchovies have been staples in my pantry for years, and getting to experience them in situ was nothing short of incredible.
I had my first taste of Romesco sauce several years ago while dining at at Jose Garces’ flagship restaurant, Amada. I was blown away by it’s texture and complexity, and so naturally, I had to try making it myself. Romesco sauce hails from the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, wherein lies Barcelona. In it’s most basic form, it’s made from roasted peppers, garlic, and nuts (usually almonds), but there can be a slew of other ingredients involved. I played around with this recipe for a while and finally created one that I like best. I first toast all of the ingredients in olive oil to bring out their flavors, which gives the sauce real depth and personality.
Romesco is traditionally served as a sauce for grilled calçots, a type of spring onion, but it pairs wonderfully with other vegetables, (especially roasted potatoes), grilled meats, and all kinds of seafood. We tried calçots con Romesco in Barcelona, and while it was good, I happen to think my version of the sauce is better. In fact, I even made it on an episode of Food Network Star, and both Giada and Alton Brown praised me for it’s flavor and authenticity. So, ya know… Just saying. 😉
Romesco goes exceptionally well with seafood, which is why I’ve chosen to pair it with my favorite fish… You probably already know by now that I’m talking about Australis barramundi (duh!). This mild and buttery fish makes an excellent match for the tangy, robust sauce. Some fish – like flounder or sole – would be overwhelmed by the bold flavor of Romesco, but barramundi is meaty enough to hold it’s own.
Since it’s the holidays and all, I chose to go one step further and sneak in a little bit of Spanish chorizo, too. It adds an extra element of flavor and texture, but if you don’t eat meat or pork, it can totally be left out with out compromise. You could easily turn this dish into a full sized entree, but I think it makes a really unique and playful appetizer. Think about the last time you were served a little piece of fish on a skewer at a party… Probably never!
Look for Australis Barramundi in the frozen and fresh seafood sections of your grocery store. Can’t find it at your local market? Just ask! Or, enter our Instagram contest to win 5 pounds of barramundi shipped right to your door. We’re giving away that, PLUS our favorite fish spatula, a set of 8 cedar grilling planks, a one-month subscription to @RawSpiceBar, and Paul Greenberg’s “Four Fish.” All you have to do to enter is follow @TheBetterFish on Instagram and regram one of their photos. The lucky winner will be chosen December 15th. Check out the post for more details, and GOOD LUCK!!
For more holiday entertaining inspiration, download our awesome mew e-book, “12 Festive and Flavorful Barramundi Recipes for the Holidays.” It’s FREE!
Thank you to Australis Barramundi for sponsoring this post.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 plum tomato
- 2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts
- 1/3 cup cubed day-old bread, crusts removed
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons blanched sliced or slivered almonds
- 1 small dried chile pepper, such as chile de arbol or cayenne, stem and seeds removed
- 1/3 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar*
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound skinless barramundi fillets
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ounces cured Spanish chorizo**, thinly sliced on a bias
- flat leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a medium, heavy bottomed skillet (like cast iron) over medium heat. Add the plum tomato, hazelnuts and bread. Toss the nuts and bread around until they’re golden brown, then use a slotted spoon to remove them to the bowl of a food processor.
- When the tomato starts to brown and blister on one side, rotate it to another side and allow it to do the same thing. Repeat until all sides are browned. In the meantime, add the garlic cloves to the pan and toss them around until they begin to turn golden. Add the sliced almonds and dried chile and toss around for about one minute. These will begin to brown quickly. When everything is golden, transfer to the food processor along with the tomato and any remaining oil.
- Add the roasted peppers, sherry vinegar, smoked paprika and salt to the food processor, then pulse a few times to get everything broken up. Let the motor run as you stream in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Process the sauce until it’s smooth but still has a little bit of texture remaining. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Pat the barramundi fillets very dry, then cut lengthwise into strips. Remove the blood line, then slice crosswise into bite sized pieces as evenly as possible. Season with salt and pepper.
- Wipe out the same skillet you used earlier and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the pan is hot, add a few pieces of barramundi, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. When they’re golden and nicely seared, flip, then remove them from the pan once they’re totally cooked through. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- (At this point, cooked barramundi bites can be held, covered, in a 175 degree oven for up to 1 hour.)
- To assemble, spoon the Romesco sauce on to a platter and spread it out into a thick line. Skewer a piece of barramundi and a piece of chorizo with a toothpick, then place it down onto the sauce. Repeat with the remaining barramundi and chorizo. Place a small leaf of parsley on top of each skewer and serve immediately.
- *If sherry vinegar is unavailable, substitute red wine vinegar.
- **Cured Spanish chorizo is hard, dried and should not be confused with the fresh variety, such as Mexican chorizo, which is a fresh sausage.
- ***This recipe makes more sauce than you’ll need for the appetizer. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for one week and can be frozen for longer storage. Serve it with more barramundi, grilled meats, fresh vegetables and potatoes!