I was watching the Cooking Channel last weekend and saw Mark Bittman prepare this recipe on his cooking show, The Minimalist. His enthusiasm for this recipe and the simplicity of his version of the sauce made me want to try it. I had never heard of the romesco sauce and I found the combination of almonds and tomatoes intriguing. Since I had a surplus of tomatoes and jalapeños and I have the pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika, in the pantry I decided to give it a try.
Romesco Sauce is a rich and dense sauce from the Catalan region of Spain. It’s primary component is roasted nuts, traditionally almonds, pine nuts, or hazelnuts. Other ingredients include roasted garlic, red peppers and tomatoes, as well as olive oil and vinegar. Fennel is commonly added if the sauce is served with seafood. This sauce is very versatile and tastes great on chicken, seafood, and meats. It’s also good as a spread on grilled bread or as a dip for roasted vegetables. The sauce is also vegan and gluten-free, if made by itself. (I don’t think the vegans are going to like cooking the sauce in with the meat. :-))
I usually like my steaks unadorned to enjoy the rich, meaty flavor, but on tri-tip, I found the sauce to be a very good complement.
Tri-Tip with Romesco Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman
Yields 1 cup
Tri-tip steak, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds, or other 2-inch-thick steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes (I used both red and yellow tomatoes)
2 tablespoons almonds, shelled
3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (leave the seeds for heat, if desired)
1 to 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pimentón or paprika, optional (This gives a wonderful smoky flavor.)
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Generously season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Put a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When very hot, add steak to one side of pan and tomatoes, almonds, garlic cloves and jalapeños, to the other. Sear steak for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring tomato mixture once or twice. Caution: This will generate a lot of smoke!
Once a crust has formed on one side of the steak, turn it over, carefully transfer the charred tomato/almond mixture to another pan and simmer. Put the pan with the tri-tip in the oven. Cook until steak is rare to medium-rare, about 6 to 12 minutes longer depending on its thickness. Transfer steak to a plate and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
While steak is cooking or resting, add vinegar and olive oil to tomato/almond mixture. Season with salt, pepper and pimentón or paprika, if using. Simmer for about 10 minutes to develop the flavor. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process, adding more olive oil or vinegar, until mixture reaches desired consistency. Sauce should still be a little crunchy from almonds. Adjust seasoning.
Slice steak thinly, against grain. Serve with generous amount of sauce.