Chubby Fish chef James London shares a cookout-ready, smoky Spanish sauce
CHUBBY FISH ROMESCO (Makes 1½ quarts)
1 yellow onion with skin on (about 1 lb.)
3 red bell peppers (about 1½ lbs.)
12 Roma tomatoes (about 2¾ lbs.)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced day-old bread (such as baguette or rustic loaf, tossed in olive oil)
1 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 qt. boiling water
12 dried guajillos or New Mexico chilies, stems removed and seeds shaken out
6 garlic cloves, root ends cut off
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. kosher salt
1/4 cup smoked paprika
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the onion and peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Toss the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil and add them to the baking sheet. Place the bread and almonds on a separate rimmed baking sheet and add to the oven. Roast the vegetables, bread, and almonds for 10 minutes. Remove everything from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the peel from the onion, and the skin and seeds from the peppers and tomatoes.
Pour the boiling water over the dried chilies and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft. Puree the chilies in a blender with 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid. This puree yields a pint, much more than you need, but is great to keep in the fridge for marinades, sauces, or the next time you make romesco.
Working in batches, combine the onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, chili puree, garlic, sherry vinegar, salt, smoked paprika, and 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil in a food processor and process for one to two minutes, or until the vegetables are incorporated into a rough sauce. Add the bread and almonds and process until they are incorporated but the sauce still has texture (one to two minutes longer). Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and sherry vinegar, if desired.
Tightly covered, the romesco sauce will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
■ Cook outdoors: “In the summer, charcoal grilling with a cold beverage in hand is the way to go.”
■ Stay well-stocked: “I tend to keep a pint of romesco in the fridge to eat with whatever is coming off the grill. This sauce is perfect with everything: whole fish, ribs, chicken, steak, and roasted or fresh veggies.”
■ Opt for off-cuts: Fish cheeks, collars, and tails yield deep flavor. “At Chubby Fish, we pride ourselves in using every part of what comes in, so nothing goes to waste.”
Meet the Chef: James London (inset picture, above)
Born in Charleston but raised in Clemson, chef James London can still fondly recall early family food memories—from catching crustaceans for his mother’s crab cakes to reeling in a cooler’s worth of fish for weekend cookouts—that helped shape his culinary beginnings. At 14, London started working in professional kitchens as a dishwasher. He pursued this burgeoning interest by studying hospitality at the College of Charleston and later by attending the French Culinary Institute in New York. London refined his style—which highlights quality ingredients with bold flavor—in Manhattan and San Francisco restaurants, where he quickly ascended to executive chef. In 2016, London returned to Charleston with a greater appreciation for the area’s unparalleled bounty of seafood. The menu at his restaurant, Chubby Fish, reflects this fascination, with ever-changing dishes that showcase food caught and grown in Lowcountry waters and fields.
Photographs (2) by Shell Royster